What is bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy commonly refers to the use of literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems.

The word ‘bibliotherapy’ originates from the Greek words for a book ‘biblion’ and healing ‘therapeia.’ An American minister, Samuel Crothers, combined the Greek words almost 100 years ago to describe the use of literature as a therapeutic tool. Crothers defined bibliotherapy as a ‘process in which specific literature, both fiction and non-fiction, was prescribed as medicine for a variety of ailments’.

Echoing Crothers description many subsequent definitions are broad, allowing scope for the use of both fiction and non-fiction within variable therapeutic contexts. Depending on the context, bibliotherapy can have different definitions and employ various processes and is, usually, defined in terms of its objectives. The objectives of the purpose and goals attributed to it are numerous, thus creating many definitions. When searching for a definition, you will find multiple definitions, depending on the context in which it is being applied: medical, psychology, criminal justice, nursing, libraries, social work, education, occupational therapy. The lack of consensus lies in the diversity of bibliotherapy. A great number of people are interested in it, each from their point of view.

Bibliotherapy seems to remain a term that still has no clear, agreed definition emerging from the literature, research or practice. The problem seems to more with the word and its diverse definitions and applications, rather than the concept itself.


Types of bibliotherapy

Brief history of bibliotherapy

FAQ about bibliotherapy