Ask A Psychologist: What is Bibliotherapy?

October 28, 2020
Ask A Psychologist: What is Bibliotherapy?

Our Psychologist Lisa Jones answers…

Bibliotherapy, or reading therapy, is the process of using books and literature to support therapy. Reading about characters’ experiences in books can help children to: 

  • Recognise and normalise their own struggles  
  • Recognise and label emotions 
  • Problem-solve 
  • Develop empathy and other important social skills 
  • Create their own narrative 
  • Generalise skills to various settings and situations 
  • Develop awareness, insight and understanding on a range of topics 

Children may choose to speak through the voice of the characters in the book, which allows them to explore their own thoughts and feelings in a less confronting way. Many fictional books provide information about topics in child-friendly language, with characters that are relatable and scenes that are familiar to children’s own experiences. 

Using stories in therapy can be a great way to target key skills, thoughts, feelings, and strategies, and allow children to generalise these into different settings. Books allow for exploration and develop many areas of development including cognitive skills, language and literacy skills, attention and concentration, social skills, narrative-telling, sharing, turn-taking and more.  

Your therapist may use fictional books to help introduce key topics or skills, or self-help style workbooks to introduce activities and strategies and provide psychoeducation about a key topic. 

Bibliotherapy is used alongside other forms of therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approaches, to support children and families with a range of mental health and behavioural challenges including depression, anxiety and other mood difficulties, social skills, emotion regulation, family dynamics, parental separation, sleep difficulties, worries, and grief, to name a few.  

Here are my top 5 books for use in therapy with children and families: 

  1. In My Heart: A book of feelings by Jo Witek 
  2. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst 
  3. Hey Warrior by Karen Young 
  4. Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch it, shape it by JoAnn Deak 
  5. The Monsters Inside by Belinda O’Brien  

Please note: Melbourne Child Development is in no way affiliated with these books and we do not receive any financial incentive to promote them (we just love them!).