Academic journal article Adolescence

Using Literature to Help Adolescents Cope with Problems

Academic journal article Adolescence

Using Literature to Help Adolescents Cope with Problems

Article excerpt

The use of literature to helping children cope with changes in their lives is referred to as bibliotherapy (a commonly accepted definition (Pardeck & Pardeck, 1993). A more detailed definition by Baker (1987) offers the various ways bibliotherapy can help people cope with problems:

The use of literature and poetry in the treatment of people with emotional problems or mental illness. Bibliotherapy is often used in social groups and group therapy and is reported to be effective with people of all ages, with people in institutions as well as outpatients, and with healthy people who wish to share literature as a means of personal growth and development.

The goals of bibliotherapy are: (a) to provide information about problems, (b) to provide insight into problems, (c) to stimulate discussion about problems, (d) to communicate new values and attitudes, (e) to create an awareness that others have dealt with similar problems, and (f) to provide solutions to problems. Here, the bibliotherapeutic process is presented, strategies for implementing bibliotherapy offered, and books suggested which can be useful for treating problems in the following areas: (a) the blended family, (b) separation and divorce, (c) child abuse, (d) foster care, and (e) adoption.


Bibliotherapy, at most, is an adjunct to other therapies. It consists of four stages (Pardeck & Pardeck, 1993): identification, selection, presentation, and follow-up. Each of these stages must be carefully considered by the therapist. The first stage, identification, involves sensitivity to the client's needs. For example, adolescents who experience problems related to family breakdown, abuse, or placement in care, need help in dealing with the specific emotions, fears, and anxieties related to these problems. Fortunately there are many excellent books that can help children work through these kinds of issues.

The selection process takes skill and insight. The books selected should not give a false sense of hope and, of course, must provide correct information about a presenting problem. Further, the assignment of reading is based on the therapist's understanding of the psychological needs of the client. The presentation of the book is based on a carefully planned strategy that ensures maximal benefits.

After the client reads the materials, during the follow-up stage, the client shares what was gained with the therapist. Through this process insight is developed that helps the client better understand the presenting problem. Bibliotherapy, in particular, can help adolescents understand that the problems related to family breakdown, abuse, or placement in care are predictable, and that other people have dealt with them successfully.



Before proceeding with bibliotherapeutic treatment, the therapist must consider an important factor--the adolescent's readiness--since inappropriate timing may impede the process. Normally, the adolescent is most ready for the initiation of bibliotherapy when the following conditions have been met: (1) rapport, trust, and confidence have been established by the therapist, (2) the client and the therapist have agreed upon the presenting problems, and (3) some preliminary exploration of the problem has occurred (Pardeck & Pardeck, 1993).

Selection of Books

The practitioner must consider several factors when selecting books for treatment, the most important of which is the presenting problem. Although books are available on virtually any problem, it is essential to use books that contain believable characters and situations that offer realistic hope. Of course, the practitioner must also know the adolescent's interests and reading level. Another element in book selection is the form of publication. Alternative forms such as braille, talking books (cassettes), and Large Type are available for those with special needs. …

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