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Bibliotherapy in practice: a person-centred approach to using books for mental health and dementia in the community
  1. Liz Brewster1,
  2. Sarah McNicol2
  1. 1Lancaster Medical School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  2. 2Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Liz Brewster, Lancaster Medical School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK; e.brewster{at}


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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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to the conception, design, analysis and interpretation of data. LB drafted the article and SM contributed to and revised it. Both authors approve the version to be published.

  • Funding The evaluation of Words in Mind on which this article is based was supported by Words in Mind (ref: Third Sector Leaders Kirklees grant number 0010349231, supported by The Big Lottery). The funder played no role in the design, execution, analysis and interpretation of the data, or writing of the study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for this study was granted by the Lancaster University Faculty of Health and Medicine Research Ethics Committee (ref: FHMREC18069).

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

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. Deidentified participant data that underlie the results reported in this article are available to researchers with a methodologically sound proposal, to achieve aims in the approved proposal. Proposals should be directed to Data requesters will be required to sign a data access agreement.