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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
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 personís 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 personís 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
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
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