Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Bibliotherapy Instead of the Bible Continued

One may be quick to regard the idea of bibliotherapy as a recent invention, but it has, in fact, been around since ancient times. Many ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Egyptians would utilize signage outside their libraries reading “healing for the soul.” While the idea of using books to help heal has been around practically forever, the word itself is a more recent invention which was coined in 1916 by a minister named Samuel Crothers. Two of the driving factors behind the development of bibliotherapy as we know it today were veterans and institutionalized mental health care. Veterans coming home from both World Wars dealt with an incredible amount of emotional pain and stress so they were often given reading materials to help them cope with the realities and horrors of war. More importantly, however, was the use of bibliotherapy in institutionalized mental health care due to the fact that in the middle of the last century it was becoming more decentralized. As out-patient care became more and more prominent, bibliotherapy programs were taken from the hospital and into communities.
There are many different ways to incorporate bibliotherapy into treatment. Both psychologists and philosophers who specialize in counseling philosophy can benefit their practices enormously from helping their patients find books that can help them work through certain issues they may be having. Bibliotherapy has also been adopted by many practitioners in the anti-psychiatry movement. They argue, much in the same way that Alain de Botton does, that we are medicalizing people and trying to treat them with medication that m

ay end up doing more harm than good. In fact, in recent years, the majority of research has shown that talk and other forms of therapy are often just as, if not more so, effective then medication. If the mental healthcare field decides to move away from the more chemically and biologically oriented treatment model that was popularized in the latter half of the last century, then it stands to reason that methods of treatment like bibliotherapy will have a very important place at the table.  Maybe one day we will see a world where going to a therapist for a mental health checkup is just as common as paying a visit to one’s general practitioner or dentist. If this became the case, it would be highly likely that teams of literary experts, such as those employed by institutions like The School of Life, would be able to collaborate to create a database of as many books as possible. Such a database could then be used by practitioners to both carefully and efficiently find the right book for their patients. It would be similar to the way we currently cross check symptoms by using diagnostic manuals such as the DSM-V or ICD. After an interview with the patient, a practitioner could establish a list of emotions felt, problems encountered, and other relevant biographical data. After simply entering the information into the database, the practitioner could generate a short list of books for the patient to look over in order to see if any of the recommended titles pique their interest. If such a system could be realized through the combination of efforts among the fields of philosophy, psychology, and library science, society as a whole would greatly benefit as each and every one of us would be able to face our problems, both external and internal, with a little help from the simple, human, act of reading.

If you would like to read more about bibliotherapy check out this links:

If you would like to read more about anti-psychiatry check out these books:

Mad in America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and the Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche by Ethan Watters

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1 comment:

  1. And for those interested in Philosophical Counseling, see Lou Marinoff's "Plato Not Prozac"...

    I think most of us in philosophy were early-adopters of bibliotherapy (though many have been professionally trained away from it, unfortunately).