Bibliotherapy – The reading cure.

We’ve talked before about how emulating the lives of inspirational characters in fiction can actually bring about positive changes but the latest research now shows that the power of the printed word is even stronger than we ever imaged. We all know how pleasurable it is to curl up with a really good book you just don’t want to put down. How many of you have even gone so far as to turn your phone to silent so as not to be disturbed? I know I’m one of them! But experts now believe that reading a book can do far more than entertain and elevate your mood. Books can literally transform lives and have been proved to help people deal with a variety of psychological and emotional problems, from stress and anxiety to grief and depression.

It’s known as bibliotherapy and even Sigmund Freud used this technique with his patients. Books were also used to assist soldiers recovering from both physical and emotional trauma in the First and Second World Wars. In Australia the government has just launched Books on Prescription which follows on from the UK model which allows doctors to recommend a variety of self-help books available on prescription from public libraries for patients suffering from psychological issues as the clinical evidence shows that books can be just as effective as other forms of therapy.

UK research has found that reading is more relaxing than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis from the consultancy Mindlab International found that reading silently for just six minutes, slows the heart rate and eased muscle tension in research volunteers.

But this kind of approach doesn’t just apply to those of us suffering from wellness or psychological issues. Books can guide us on our spiritual path, open us to possibilities and provide us with new insights on how we can be living our lives. And of course, the effect isn’t just limited to self-help books. We can find inspiration in biographies, fiction and non-fiction. We only have to look at the success of Richard and Judy’s and Oprah’s book clubs to see that we all have an insatiable appetite for books that inspire and open us up to knowledge and possibilities. So why not make a list of the books that have changed your life and inspired you? If you’re looking for something new to read in a similar vein then type in the title into Amazon and it will come up with a list of other books that are similar. Or, perhaps its time to re-read some of your favourites or why not even email us your list or write a review and tell us why you think this book is a life-changer? Because there’s no doubt about it – if you want to change your life it’s as easy as cracking open a book!


The London borough of Chelsea has taken this one step further and has bibliotherapy groups and a collection of wellbeing books “for adults coping with common life challenges or mental health issues may find our Adult Wellbeing Collection useful – the books in this collection can provide guidance and support to overcome a range of emotional and psychological problems”. Learn more about it here.

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