Welcome to my sofa. Please take a seat …

I’ve heard of psychotherapy, relationship therapy, even art therapy but I’d never heard of Bibliotherapy. Now I’m soon to be a Bibliotherapist.

The act of reading a book to nourish the soul, especially in times of emotional turmoil, is something many of us might do unconsciously. Certainly, Brenda Walker’s book, Reading by Moonlight, a meditation on the link between reading and healing, made me think about why I had chosen to read particular books at certain times in my life – Pride and Prejudice as a teenager because what 17 year old didn’t want to imagine that someone like Mr Darcy must surely exist somewhere beyond the limits of 17 year old boys; The Blind Assassin at a time when I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life because it made me see that writing was the only possible thing to do, and Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett when I was pregnant with my first child because it made me understand that one’s child is the most precious thing that one can ever be priveleged to know.

So when an email landed in my inbox from UWA Extension, with whom I often teach writing courses, asking me if I would be interested in running a session on Bibliotherapy, I was immediatley quite struck with the notion, although I had no real idea what Bibliotherapy was. But Google soon fixed that.

Essentially, bibliotherapy is about giving someone a reading prescription – a prescription to suit whatever is happening in their life at that point in time. I came across this article from The Guardian which outlined one possible process but for the session at UWA Extension, we have decided upon group bibliotherapy – I like the idea of all of us hearing one another’s book prescription because hearing about how a book might be meaningful in someone else’s life might have its own special resonance.

So what exactly am I going to do in a Bibliotherapy session? Good question. I’m thinking it will go something like this. Firstly, I’ll talk to people. Find out what books have moved or haunted them in the past. I’ll find out a bit about each person’ life. And then when delivering my prescription, I’ll think about all the books I’ve read and make a few suggestions of books that might shift them or change them or make them think or, hopefully, make them feel.

Of course I don’t pretend to be any real kind of therapist; I’m nothing other than a person who loves to read, to talk about books and to share books that I’ve loved with other people. I think the idea of getting some book recommendations based on what’s going on in your life is just as likely to hit the mark as using the review pages of the newspaper to decide what books you might read – in fact I hope it’s more likely.

So, what do you think? Would you do bibliotherapy? And have certain books come to you at particular points in your life, almost as if you were meant to read them at that time?

I’ll be running the Bibliotherapy session in UWA Extension’s Summer School. The program isn’t out yet, but here’s the link to their website and you can keep an eye out for details of when the course will be held as they become available.


  1. Faz

    It is the first time i’ve heard of bibliotheray, and it certainly sounds like a great idea. We do subconsciously only read books we relate to, as even fantasy, or the vampiric trend at the moment, have underlying metaphoric meanings that reach out to our life. I’m currently reading Anna Karenina for the first time, as the movie is coming out soon, but I don’t know if it’s a perscription. I’ll soon find out.

  2. Not Drowning, Reading by psychotherapist and author Andrew Relph would be a perfect one for this. He could be classed as a bibliotherapist.

  3. This sounds really fascinating. I look forward to an update on how the class goes!

    • I hope it will work – I’m a bit nervous in case I suddenly forget all the great books I’ve read and can’t come up with a prescription for someone. I’m sure it will be fun, regardless. Will post an update in a couple of months after I’ve run the session.

  4. Magdalena

    This session sounds fab and I’ll be keeping an eye out for it! I’ll need to think about the books that could be on my list…

  5. It’s a brilliant idea. I’ve just started blogging (very, very recently!) about the memory of books, rather than reviewing books. Books have such special meaning to us and sometimes, it’s not about the novel but the time we read it. I hope it goes well.

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