Bibliotherapy for Mental Health

Jennifer Yontz-Orlando


The United States is facing an epidemic of mental illness, affecting nearly 60 million Americans annually ( ). The World Health Organization describes mental health as “a long neglected problem” and has established an action plan for 2013-2020 ( One way to combat mental illness is through bibliotherapy, which is the use of written materials including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry to support emotional and psychiatric healing.
Bibliotherapy has been in existence since ancient times, but began in earnest in the United States in the 1850’s during the “Great Awakening.” At that time, mental illness began to be seen as a medical condition rather than a supernatural phenomenon. Since then, due to the changing nature of our institutions, interest in bibliotherapy waned until the 1950’s when there was a slight resurgence in its practice. However, in the last 20 years, bibliotherapy has gained a stronghold in the United Kingdom. To relieve the stress of an overcrowded mental health system, public policy in the UK has supported the use of bibliotherapy in a variety of its institutions. There are many ways to conduct bibliotherapy, but studies show that when the process is interactive, such as in a support group setting, the results are better. Also, bibliotherapy can be conducted by many sorts of professionals, including doctors, therapists, social workers, teachers, and librarians.
Studies also show that when the bibliotherapists are trained in the best practices of bibliotherapy, results improve. Bibliotherapy is an effective, low-cost alternative for people in need of therapeutic assistance. The UK model should be studied and implemented in the United States and in other nations to help solve the mental health crisis.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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