Tabrina Legault and Melissa Boila, students on the Child and Youth Care Program at Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta, offer this brief introduction to a seldom encountered method of therapy
Using books in therapy
Freud (1856-1939) developed the psychoanalytic theory through his work with mentally ill patients. Many psychoanalytic theorists believe that a behavior is just a surface characteristic and for them to fully understand the behavior they must look at the symbolic meaning and the inner workings of a person’s mind. Freud thought that the personality has three structures, which are the id, ego, and superego. The id consists of instincts, where an individual stores psychic energy, the ego deals with the demands of reality, and the superego, is the branch of the person’s personality (Santrock, 1994). Pearsall (2001) also states that psychoanalysis is a method to treat mental disorders by looking into the communication between the conscious and the unconscious parts of the mind bringing fears and anxieties to the surface. Out of this theory many therapies have been derived. One of these therapies is bibliotherapy.
What is bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy is the use of books to help children and teens heal social, emotional, or personal problems. Literature allows a reader to identify with characters and problems in a book and relate them to their own lives. A reader learns how others deal with frustrations and disappointments, and allows them to gain insight into alternative solutions to their own problems (Alat, 2002). Adams and Pitre (2000) claim that reading books gives clients the chance to learn and relate to the experiences of other people. Bibliotherapy is a collaborative process between client and therapist which can complement other approaches.
Bibliotherapy may be used in various ways. Aiex (1982) states that bibliotherapy will help a client to develop self-concept, increased understanding of human behaviors, and reduce emotional or mental pressures. By allowing the reader to understand that they are not the only ones with a particular problem they will be more willing to discuss their problem more openly. A counselor can choose whether to conduct bibliotherapy in a group setting or on a one to one basis with a client. The counselor plays a key role when conducting bibliotherapy. They are responsible to motivate the client, provide time to read the selected readings, and provide follow up time to discuss the literature.
The process of bibliotherapy (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~weinberg/BiblioDynamics.html) concludes that discussing the readings allows the counselor to ask questions and lead the client through identification, which involves identifying with a character, event, and ideas presented in the story. Following identification is catharsis, where the client becomes emotionally involved in the story and is able to release pent-up emotions. Lastly discussion of thoughts, feelings, and emotions helps the client to gain insight. Clients are often unaware of the factors that determine their behavior and emotions, it is important for counselors who use psychoanalysis to know the benefits and uses of bibliotherapy. Through the use of bibliotherapy, clients may become aware of their underlying unconscious issues, and with the help of the counselor is able to bring them to the conscious mind. This allows for issues to be discussed and examined and for solutions to be developed.
Adams, S., Pitre, N.L. (2000). Who uses bibliotherapy and why? Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(7), 645.
Aiex, N.K. (1982). Bibliotherapy fact sheet. Urbana, IL: ERIC Clearing House on Reading and Communication skills. ED. 234338.
Alat, K. (2002). Traumatic events and children: How early childhood educators can help. Childhood Education, 79(1), 2-7.
Pearsall, J. (10th ed.). (2001). The Concise Oxford Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Santrack, J.W. (1994). Child development (6th ed.). Dubuque, AI: WM.C. Brown Communications Inc. The process of bibliotherapy. (n.d.). Retrieved January 1, 2003, from http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~weinberg/BiblioDynamics.htm