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Bibliotherapy in practice: a person-centred approach to using books for mental health and dementia in the community

Abstract

Bibliotherapy is the use of texts to provide support for people with mental and physical health problems. It is widely seen to have beneficial outcomes but there is still disagreement about how best to deliver bibliotherapy in practice. This article explores one method of delivering bibliotherapy which has evolved over the past 20 years in the North of England, the Kirklees approach. Using a multimethod qualitative research design including reflective observations, interviews and document analysis, the article examines how bibliotherapy has been delivered to people with mental health problems and dementia in a volunteer-led scheme. As an inherently flexible and adaptable approach, bibliotherapy in practice in Kirklees is best defined by its ethos, rather than a prescriptive list of its activities, as is the case for many alternative approaches to bibliotherapy. It is an approach to bibliotherapy which is person-centred; avoids value judgements of texts and responses to them; is often co-produced with group participants; is about making a contribution (in a variety of ways); and emphasises social connection. This separates it from other current models of bibliotherapy operating in the UK, and demonstrates how it may be tailored to the requirements of those experiencing diverse mental and physical health conditions. A more responsive form of bibliotherapy, as outlined here, has the potential to provide support across the community.

  • arts in health/arts and health
  • literature and medicine
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