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An Extension of Bibliotherapy: Therapeutic Tools, Mirrors, and Observations in the World Around Us

  • Stefani Levin, LCSW-C

An Extension of Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy is the term coined by Samuel Crothers in 1916 to refer to the use of books to aid people [therapy clients] in solving the issues they were facing. The word and the tool itself have morphed and evolved over the past 100+ years, but it has largely remained consistent to the core concept of prescribing specific books as a process of therapeutic understanding. Fiction, specifically novels, are the most common tools in this process.

Assigning books for my clients to read is a significant part of my practice, but the media that I find to be potentially relevant to the specific issues facing specific clients tends to extend far past long-format fiction. The amount of intelligently created, insightful, and poignant media at our disposal in this phase of late-stage capitalism is astounding, and resultingly, I come across so many more potential works of healing to suggest my clients read. Fiction may be the most traditional source material for nurturing empathy and allowing a slower, self-paced period for reflection, but that is not always the most appropriate tool for the client on my couch. The medium of a work itself is just as crucial to the messages contained within, and often a fast-paced, streamable television program offers themes or evokes emotions more akin to the client's experience of distress. Alternately, the medium may be the sole focus of the media suggestion; assigning an easily digestible, page-turner graphic novel to a client who struggles with feelings of not being able to complete tasks.

A large motivation for starting this blog is to discuss the potential of different media to aid in the therapeutic experience; the types of media and their possible utility. Perhaps the larger motivation, however, is to provide analysis of existing media and the parallels that exist to the therapeutic process.

I want to explore the psychological themes present in the works that we engage with for pleasure. Popular media is popular because of the cultural tastes and the societal messages present in our world, yes, and it's popular because of the advertising, marketing, and media corporations that are expertly able to dictate trends, but more than that, popular media is embraced because there is something that is inherently relatable. We love certain films, television programs, artworks, podcasts, etc. because there are themes that we, as consumers, find deeply relevant to our human experience. Hopefully, this journal will be an avenue to investigate what those themes are, and how we can be healed by consuming these narratives.

Whenever I watch a particularly moving piece of media, my first impulse is to Google "what are therapists saying about [film/program/podcast]?". As yet, I have not found a coherent, consistent space that showcases therapists' interpretations, opinions, or critiques of these current cultural artifacts. So, here we go: this is blog is what your therapist thinks about that show you love.

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