Bibliotherapy: The Therapeutic use of Fiction and Poetry in Mental Health

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Allan Peterkin
Smrita Grewal


Background: An overview of the way in which bibliotherapy has been defined and implemented historically is provided.Objectives: The purpose of this paper is to examine the effectiveness of using fiction and poetry as a therapeutic modality in mental health. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted following the elements of the 2009 PRISMA statement. Results: This literature review demonstrated a lack of empirical studies examining the therapeutic effect of poetry or fiction in a mental health context. However, three studies indicated benefit for patients with symptoms of depression or anxiety, or for those experiencing difficulties coping with a diagnosis of cancer. Bibliotherapy can however be considered to be a promising modality within the growing field of narrative medicine. Conclusions: The use of poetry or fiction in therapy appears to be beneficial when used in a group context with a skilled facilitator. Larger randomized control trials examining this form of bibliotherapy in a variety of mental health conditions and settings are now required.

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