Blog Hop: Reading for Therapy

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is:  What is your opinion of bibliotherapy? Do you think this is a useful way of dealing with psychological issues? If you’ve used it yourself, or know someone who has, what books(s) would you recommend?

I’ll admit I had to look up “bibliotherapy” for this question, but it appears to mean pretty much what I’d expect: reading as a component of therapy.  It seems to be not so much about reading instructive books, but reading in general, often fiction.  Here’s an interesting article on the subject.

So, now that we’ve defined our terms–as a very definite non-expert on the subject, I think it sounds like a good idea.  I don’t think it would be a substitute for other kinds of therapy, especially for people with very serious things to deal with, but as a component it seems like it could be helpful.  I’ve long said that Terry Pratchett books are my favorite cure for gloomy days!  And with more seriousness, I think exposure to stories, especially ones that are uplifting or have good messages, can be very positive for mental health.

On the flip side, sad stories or horror stories could have a negative impact, in the wrong moment for the wrong person!  So it’s not quite as straight-forward as “read anything, it will do you good.”

I once attended a very interesting presentation at a sci fi/fantasy convention about using Harry Potter books as a component of therapy.  I unfortunately don’t remember most of it, but what stuck was an anecdote about using Professor Trelawney’s story to combat anxiety.

Basically – you know that feeling we all get sometimes (I think) that something terrible might have happened, or be about to?  Someone hasn’t called when they should, or you think you might have left the stove on, or something else is triggering an anxiety spin of terrible things that could be happening.  Well, Professor Trelawney is the Divination Professor at Hogwarts, and she has that feeling ALL THE TIME.  She basically goes through life predicting terrible, horrific events, ALL THE TIME.  And as it happens, she’s a really inaccurate prophet!  Over the course of some twenty years, she has exactly two accurate visions or prophecies.

The speaker at the presentation recommended working out the math.  Making an estimate of how many predictions Professor Trelawney made over twenty years, compared to the two that were right.  I forget what numbers I used to estimate, but I came up with the result that Professor Trelawney was wrong 99.98% of the time, and that’s probably being generous about her accuracy.

I have to say, it’s surprisingly helpful sometimes to tell myself “Professor Trelawney was wrong 99.98% of the time, so whatever I’m worrying about probably hasn’t happened/won’t happen either.”  Try it some time!

That’s not exactly bibliotherapy–but it does support the idea that fiction can be a good component of mental health.

I’m curious–has anyone actually tried bibliotherapy?  Even if not, do you think books support your mental health, or have they given you any useful tools?

2 thoughts on “Blog Hop: Reading for Therapy

  1. No doubt reading can have an affect on normal mood swings involving moderate (non-psychotic) anxiety or depression. Not so sure that in itself it gets to the root of serious problems, though. Professor Trelawney’s dismal record at accurately predicting bad news reminds me of Calvin Coolidge’s advice: “If you see eight troubles approaching you on the road, seven of them will jump in the ditch before they reach you.” Of course, in the matter of the Great Depression, it was more that the trouble continued along the road and it was Silent Cal who jumped in the ditch, leaving poor Herbert Hoover to absorb the brunt of the trouble. But his point still has merit.

  2. I don’t know about reading as a form of therapy – I think the points you make about that are valid – but I do enjoy it as a form of relaxation. I use it more that way now than I did when I was working at a very demanding job. After being busy for a good part of a given day, it is nice to sit down and just read for a while. It definitely makes me feel less harried. I wish I could have used it more when I needed it more while working at a job that took so much of my attention and energy. But I didn’t do that enough because 1) it felt like I didn’t have the time and 2) when I finally did have the time at the end of the day, I didn’t have the energy to focus on reading. So that’s kind of a conundrum. 🙂 I’m glad I can use it for relaxation now, though.

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