Behavioral Bibliotherapy: Theoretical and Methodological Issues in Outcome Research into Self-Help Programs

  • Michael G. T. Dow


Although the term “bibliotherapy” probably smacks of contemporary “psychobabble”, like the technique to which it refers, it has a lengthy history. It first appeared in Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary in 1941 and was defined as ‘the employment of books and the reading of them in the treatment of nervous diseases’ — a definition which was expanded twenty years later to include physical disorders. The therapeutic use and value of books have been recognised since ancient times. Tews (1970) reports that the libraries of three millennia bore the inscription in Greek, ‘Medicine (or remedy) for the soul’, and she notes that records of early Roman encyclopaedists ‘leave little doubt that books were made to serve curative objectives, particularly in the treatment of the emotionally disturbed patient’ (p.173) and in the sixteenth century Rabelais (1494–1553) prescribed literature for his patients as part of their treatment (Schneck, 1944). Of course, the theoretical rationale for their use in treatment has changed throughout history. Originally, the therapeutic emphasis was mainly on the act of reading itself, with the material considered more a source of moral and intellectual sustenance rather than a medium for directive guidance.


Sexual Dysfunction Premature Ejaculation Minimal Contact Therapist Contact Systematic Desensitisation 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael G. T. Dow
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentGartnavel Royal HospitalGlasgowScotland

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