Reading as Therapy
For those who know me well, they would agree that I enjoy reading. I get this weird sense of pleasure and satisfaction when I can bury my face in a good book, even on my Kindle. Reading is one of those things that takes me away from any stressful situation. It is my way of escaping even for a few minutes and even one way to spend quality time with myself. Reading provides a way for me to learn more about myself (depending on the book), provides me with options and new ideas.
I think my fascination with reading came from being given books by my Aunt Merle as a child. I remember that she would always be the one to get me a book as a gift and would even read some of them with me. Some of my favorite childhood books were the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sweet Sixteen series. As I got older, I played around with my taste in books and eventually found that my interest was in books that told of real life stories, or had a story line that I could learn from. At College I got caught up with books by Jonathan Kellerman and Stephen White who wrote psychological thrillers.
As I began working with clients during my Graduate School internship, I started reading a lot of autobiographies and non-fiction books. It fascinates me to read the words that other persons wrote detailing their struggles and how they learned to cope. I realized that books are not just therapy for myself, but they can be therapy to clients as well.
The first time I recommended a book to a client, I was a bit nervous about it, as I was not sure what the reaction would be. I read The Buddha and The Borderline: My Recovery From Borderline Personality Disorder through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Buddhism and Online Dating by Kiera Van Gelder when a few weeks later I had a client who I thought would benefit from reading this book. I offered the book as a suggestion since the client identified a few things that Van Gelder mentioned in her book. I explained what the book was about, clarified that it was not being suggested as a form of therapy but that it was to assist with seeing their struggle from someone else’s perspective, and offered the option to process chapters as they completed it. They accepted.
“I got the book and started to read it already!” They were delighted, I was anxious. I doubted whether I had done the right thing and hoped it would not back-fire on me. Almost two weeks after starting the book, the client told me how helpful the book had been in showing that one is not alone in any struggle and that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with the lack of impulse control. I was shown personal notes and it was even stated that the individual was encouraged to further explore a Higher Power.
I am always willing to share the names of books with clients, but I keep a few things in mind before I do:
1. Is the person able to relate to the story?
2. Would this book do harm to the client?
3. What would be the benefit in sharing this book?
4. Am I able to process the story-line with them?
5. When suggesting the book, I remind them that it is not to be supplemented for therapy or medication and that it is optional to read
I have also had clients suggest books to me too! The first time a client suggested a book, it was The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz. I had borrowed it from the local library and after reading it, purchased a copy for myself! Sometimes, even our clients have good suggestions.
Have you incorporated books as part of your treatment with clients? Have you had a good experience with it? I am interested in hearing what has worked for you.
Callender, K. (2013). Reading as Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 12, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/lessons/2013/03/reading-as-therapy/