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Get into Reading as an intervention for common mental health problems: exploring catalysts for change
  1. Christopher Dowrick1,
  2. Josie Billington1,
  3. Jude Robinson2,
  4. Andrew Hamer3,
  5. Clare Williams4
  1. 1Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Department of Sociology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3School of English, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4The Reader Organisation, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Christopher Dowrick, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, 1st Floor Block B Waterhouse Buildings, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3GL, UK; cfd{at}


There is increasing evidence for the efficacy of non-medical strategies to improve mental health and well-being. Get into Reading is a shared reading intervention which has demonstrable acceptability and feasibility. This paper explores potential catalysts for change resulting from Get into Reading. Two weekly reading groups ran for 12 months, in a GP surgery and a mental health drop-in centre, for people with a GP diagnosis of depression and a validated severity measure. Data collection included quantitative measures at the outset and end of the study, digital recording of sessions, observation and reflective diaries. Qualitative data were analysed thematically and critically compared with digital recordings. The evidence suggested a reduction in depressive symptoms for Get into Reading group participants. Three potential catalysts for change were identified: literary form and content, including the balance between prose and poetry; group facilitation, including social awareness and communicative skills; and group processes, including reflective and syntactic mirroring. This study has generated hypotheses about potential change processes of Get into Reading groups. Evidence of clinical efficacy was limited by small sample size, participant attrition and lack of controls. The focus on depression limited the generalisability of findings to other clinical groups or in non-clinical settings. Further research is needed, including assessment of the social and economic impact and substantial trials of the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of this intervention.

  • Shared reading
  • depression
  • intervention
  • catalysts for change
  • qualitative
  • mental healthcare
  • literature
  • primary care
  • social science

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  • Funding This study was funded by a grant from MerseyBeat/Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by Sefton NHS Research Ethics Committee (ref 09/H1001/45).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.