Bibliotherapy and its Benefits

Have you heard of Bibliotherapy? It is a little known branch of alternative therapies. It consists of recommendation of suitable books or portions of books to patients. Reading such chosen books would help healing or recuperation faster. It is an adjunctive or support therapy similar to music therapy.

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Shall we start with a quote from a patient?

“I had a massive heart attack in Oct 1998 and I have consulted three Cardiologists who were of unanimous opinion that I should undergo Bypass surgery. After I read the book ‘Program for reversing Heart Disease’ written by Dr Dean Ornish, I decided not to go for surgery but changed my life style.  I also wrote an article about my success story which was published in Health and nutrition Magazine as a prize winning article.”- said Viswanathan, Founder of Senior Citizens Forum in Hyderabad.

Mr. Viswanathan talks of a book that changed his lifestyle. Following the author’s suggestions helped him avoid by-pass surgery. He also developed a positive way of looking at life as whole instead of going into depression that something is wrong with his heart. This approach is commendable. He has also read books of similar nature with specific reference to his physical and mental conditions. Books helped him to reach certain levels of good health and have better quality of life. Books have been used as an adjunct to heal or rather promote healing quickly. He has been practicing what is known as Bibliotherapy.

Benefits of Reading: Therapeutic angle

I know a number of people who have benefitted similarly. Some people come out of acute depression. Some are able to avoid committing suicide. Others are able to find answers to the philosophical question “Why ME?” when they are affected by terminal diseases like cancer or Aids. I have heard my friends declare that books take them to another world, just as opium or drugs.  I was a librarian in an industrial concern. A senior officer, KS Varadachar, lost his wife and the period of bereavement was unmanageable. He would come to me and say: “Give me some technical journals. That is the only way to forget myself”.

I read somewhere in a library:

Reading of absorbing fiction or thriller or romance may lighten your moods

Reading appropriate quotations may strike you like lightning (at times) with positive energy

Reading biography of great men may inspire you chalk out a finite purpose for your life

Self help books might bring about attitudinal changes for the better

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Any good counselor, clinical psychologist, trained social worker, or a dedicated librarian can act as a bibliotherapist. Of course a medical doctor surpasses all in becoming a very efficient

bibliotherapist. A professional bibliotherapist suggests books (and literature in general) to people to gain better health. Bibliotherapy is supplementary and complementary to ALL types of therapies.

A good bibliotherapist knows various types of books that help his ‘patients’ in different situations. Religious and spiritual texts, self help books, Travelogue, adventure stories, outright fantasy titles and others have their own place. Sometime sheer pulp fiction romances too solve boredom arising out of prolonged stay in a hospital.

Bibliotherapy works!

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As an instance of science behind Bibliotherapy following may be cited: If a patient is recuperating after a heart surgery, his breathing and heart beats need to synchronize. This synchronization may be brought about easily by controlling the breathing to six breaths per minute. This may be effortlessly achieved by reading aloud some epic poetry such as Iliad that is set to hexameter.

If you can improve your health by just reading the right type of books, why not consult your local librarian, nay, Bibliotherapist?


-Dr P Vyasamoorthy


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