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November/December 2016 Issue

Editor's Note: Reading and Writing to Heal
By Marianne Mallon
Social Work Today
Vol. 16 No. 6 P. 3

Do you remember reading a book in your youth or even as an adult that profoundly affected you? The author captured your experience exactly. He or she had somehow looked into your soul and saw your pain or joy. The delight in that experience was in knowing that you were not alone, that someone else had experienced something similar. You likely didn't realize it at the time, but you may have been helping yourself psychologically.

The cover story of this issue is about bibliotherapy, the practice of intentionally using reading and writing as adjunct therapies with clients for their emotional benefit. The author of our cover story explains that many of us have engaged in a kind of bibliotherapy in our lives while reading books because we have identified with characters, or gained information about our problems, or have written to express ourselves, or composed letters, journal entries, or stories. We have read for pleasure, with no motive to heal, but it has been therapeutic.

Our cover story also reveals that bibliotherapy was adopted by medical professionals such as Benjamin Rush and Anna and Sigmund Freud in the early 19th century, when the term was created. It was used in hospitals and other health care settings, and it became the subject of studies published in medical journals. Today, as the author points out, it is used by social workers and other therapists and increasingly is studied for its ability to relieve distress associated with many illnesses and behaviors. Studies have shown its effectiveness in helping individuals with depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, eating disorders, addiction, and other disorders.

By the time this issue of Social Work Today is published, we will have a new president, ending the most bitter, contentious election cycle in recent history.
We can only hope that it will be a time to heal and talk more about solutions and what we share instead of what tears us apart. Perhaps we can all use some bibliotherapy to do that.

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Marianne Mallon