"Here, read this."
Bibliotherapy is the process of using books as a way to help the healing process, either individually or in groups. There's a good piece in The Guardian by Blake Hope on the practice in the UK.
Bibliotherapy, as it's called, is a fast-growing profession. A recent survey suggests that "over half of English library authorities are operating some form of bibliotherapy intervention, based on the books-on-prescription model". That's to say, an increasing number of people are being referred by their GPs to the local library, where they'll find shelves or "reading pharmacies" set aside for literature deemed relevant to their condition. Lapidus, an organisation established in 1996 "to promote the use of literary arts in personal development", has played a key role in bringing together writers and health professionals; as has the current editor of the Poetry Society's magazine, the poet Fiona Sampson.
More on Lapidus:
Members of Lapidus come from all walks of life but we have one thing in common - an interest in healing and personal development through writing and reading. That means anyone can join and our members include non-professionals, writers and poets, medical and healthcare professionals, therapists, social workers, librarians, academics, teachers, service users, survivors and service providers who may work in a variety of therapeutic environments.
We are dedicated to developing the potential and actual benefits of creative words all in our own ways through creative writing workshops, storytelling, poetry sessions or in hospitals, health centres, mental health organisations or community settings. Wherever it happens we all wish to grow and develop personally and creatively.
Here is the Lapidus reading list:
Birren & Deutchman (1991); Guiding Autobiography Groups for Older Adults; Johns Hopkins; London
Bolton G (1999) The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself. London: Jessica Kingsley
DeSalvo, L Writing as a Way of Healing London: The Women’s Press
Dynes (1988); Creative Writing in Groupwork; Winslow Press
Field, J (aka Milner, M) A Life of One’s Own: London, Virago
Kelley, A. (1999) The Poetry Remedy Newmill: The Patten Press
Goldberg N; (1986); Writing down the Bones; London: Shambala
Hunt, C & Sampson, F (eds) The Self on the Page – Theory and Practice of Creative Writing in Personal Development London: Jessica Kingsley
Hunt C (2000) Therapeutic dimensions of autobiography in creative writing. London: Jessica Kingsley
Lane B; (1993); Writing as a Road to Self-Discovery; Ohio: Writers Digest
Lusser Rico, G: Writing the Natural Way -- A course in enhancing Creativity and Writing Confidence: JP Tarcher, Inc
Pennebaker JW Opening UP: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others. New York: Avon Books
Philips, D, Linington L et al (eds) Writing Well – Creative Writing and Mental Health London: Jessica Kingsley
Progoff (1975); At a Journal Workshop;,New York: Dialogue House
Rainer T: (1980); The New Diary; London: Angus & Robertson;
Sampson, F The Healing Word London: The Poetry Society
Schneider M Killick J (1998) Writing for Self-Discovery. London: Element.
Sellers S Taking reality by surprise. London: Womens Press
Senior & Croall; (1993); Helping to Heal: the Arts in Health Care London: Calouste Gulbenkian;
Wade S (2000) Write yourself a new life. Oxford: How to Book