Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Books as Therapy: Yikes.

Here's today's Literary Blog Hop question from The Blue Bookcase:

Discuss Bibliotherapy. Do you believe literature can be a viable form of therapy? Is literary writing more or less therapeutic than pop lit or nonfiction?

To the first question:
Literature as consolation?  Yes.  As a means for the therapist of a bibliophile to offer a 'neutral' platform for discussion of anticipated issues, or to process recent ones?  Yes, and perhaps (respectively).  As an ancillary support among a qualified therapist's treatment options?  Sure.

But as the sole therapy, as therapy itself?  No.

If any of us is truly in crisis, then we need real people with actionable strategies to help us through, and we need 'em now.

Could books help?  Of course.  The right books, offered by a knowledgeable and compassionate friend or mentor or partner or therapist and talked through, could offer solace and guidance as well as any living being. 

But if we truly need therapy, then we need another view of our lives and some wise, compassionate- dispassionate guidance.  If we truly need therapy, then we're at a point where our own choices and resources have led us into unnavigable territories and we need a mentor to help guide us out.

I adore books.  They help me to understand my life, my world, my possibilities.  Sometimes they even help me set my sights on transcending my self.  But if I were ever truly in crisis, then I'd know that my own predilections and my own intellectual and linguistic faculties had failed me.  And I would need much, much more than books.

MFB,
L

(To the second question: Whatever helps the individual is what's important.  How others classify the work is a trivial matter when a person is in crisis.)

And don't forget to find out what other bloggers think by visiting The Blue Bookcase and then hopping to their responses.

10 comments:

Christine said...

Interesting ideas. I think it really depends on the person and situation, though. Personally, true therapy is not my thing- I have issues with the people that are supposed to help us through issues, I suppose. I think it also depends on what you take from the word "Bibliotherapy." I guess I see it as more of "aromatherapy" or "massage therapy"- not really a true solution for someone that is, say, suicidal, but more down and out.

Some great points- and I DEFINITELY agree with it pop lit not being helpful (ever).

Christine said...

Sorry- I guess you weren't anti pop-lit... I'm hallucinating. I need to stop reading blogs and go to bed.

Salome Ellen said...

I'd like to argue a little, since I definitely received therapeutic help from a particular book, "prescribed" by my therapist. I have anxiety and panic disorder, and for me, knowledge was power; when I learned the facts and skills in the recommended book, I was able to reach (and have maintained for a decade)a point of stability and control. I suppose that this wasn't "literature", per se, but I WOULD call it "bibliotherapy>" Feel free to discuss......

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I'm no therapist so I have only my "Grey's Anatomy fan opinion," but I feel strongly that books could be a sole therapeutic device for a patient, but more times than not, it's used in conjunction with other aspects of formal therapy - sessions, journal writing, etc.

Laurie said...

Christine - I chose a rather heightened tone because it seemed irresponsible for a therapist to say, "Take two classics and call me in the morning."

Salome Ellen - Your response makes complete sense to me, and I'm so glad that a non-fiction book was of such help for you. And kudos, by the way, to you for your consistent practice of the skills that support your long term stability: brava. I completely understand how a book directly related to your situation, one that offered specific practices, would be potentially transformative, as that book was for you. My response related more to using literature - rather than the sort of book you describe - as the sole tool for therapy or as a person's sole means of self-care w/out the help or guidance of another person. I so appreciate your comment.

Laurie said...

Natalie - Yes, I would suspect that simply discussing books might not be most bibliotherapists' only mode of treatment...
All - I reread my post to respond to your comments and realized that I had published only an early draft, not the one I intended, so - although your comments are still quite pertinent - it's a tad shorter now and perhaps a little less strident than the version I mistakenly posted. My apologies.

Susan (Reading World) said...

Very reasonable answer all the way around.

Em said...

Great answer! I concur.

Anja Kasap said...

You're right, bibliotherapy wouldn't cure someone who had a very difficult problem, but for less difficult issues, or more temporary situations, it can be valuable. Here's my response: http://reading2011.blogspot.com/

LBC said...

Hi Laurie. I linked to your post in my response this week, because I agree that just reading books isn't a valid form of therapy for someone with clinical depression or other types of serious illness.

Come visit my post here.

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