Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Well: a project in which reading groups enhance mental health

the “pilot found participants felt more relaxed and confident after attending the groups. Those working with dementia patients found their ability to recall and communicate had improved, while people with depression were invigorated by the social contact.” (Between the lines, Suzy Freeman-Greene, March 14, 2011

Fascinating article in The Age on the use of books in working with folk who have mental health challenges. It’s called bibliotherapy and involves the use of literature in a healing way.

It made a number of links for me. First, to a book I mentioned last year (creativity, spirituality and mental health), research on the power of spirituality and Biblical storytelling in enhancing mental health. Second, our recent Masters of Ministry class, in which a participant led us in an exploration of the relationship between depression and St John of the Cross’s Dark night of the Soul. Again this link between spirituality, words well chosen and mental health.

The article provides some practical pointers
– choosing the right texts is crucial, stories that allow reflection on life experiences
– the tone is gentle, not confronting.
– the need to create a safe group.
– part of the plan is to help people unpick difficult feelings and just sit with them.

For more on spirituality and mental health:
Downs Syndrome at Christmas here; chapter by chapter reviews of Amos Yong’s Theology and disability, go here; resources for rituals in all life here; rituals in the dark places here, another resource called Sense making faith (here).

Posted by steve at 11:45 AM


  1. HUGE THX for this! {these!}
    @_InSpirit twitter

    Comment by Infuse — March 14, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

  2. Read the article and was impressed. I’ve sought out a couple of friends as to how we might attempt something similar with some of those to whom we ‘pastor’ who are under real stresses and strains. We are going to have a look at the poetry of Seamus Heaney to see what might be found there. This certainly changes one’s approach to reading, both private and public.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — March 15, 2011 @ 8:06 am

  3. I’m delighted Bruce. That sounds so practical. I’d love to be kept updated with how this develops.


    Comment by steve — March 15, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  4. I think this could be really useful for not only those who suffer mental health problems, I can imagine that those stuck in stagnant spiritual place would benefit from stepping outside the traditional Christian reading to be exposed to soul stirrings of others.

    Comment by Craig Mischewski — March 15, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  5. Thanks Craig. The longer I spend within the Christian tradition, the more amazed I am by the sheer diversity and richness of spirituality resources. Currently I’m loving painting icons and doing Anglican daily prayer and finding both helpful for my mental health 🙂


    Comment by steve — March 16, 2011 @ 10:25 am

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