Reading changes our lives. Words were invented to make sense of the world around us and to communicate our thoughts, ideas, fantasies, and fears. When we read, we are transported and transformed. The words on the page become alive with meaning and become ingrained in our memory. Spiritual experiences happen when reading. Passages can inspire us to make life changing decisions or radically alter our course of life. Now, reading is being evaluated as a treatment method for various mental disorders like depression.
Bibliotherapy is the process of combining reading with cognitive therapy. As one psychotherapist and counselor explains, “Bibliotherapy simply means the usage of selected books to guide a person in the area that he or she seeks help in. It’s like having a dialogue with a book- using its concepts as food for thought, trying to slowly apply it in life and checking if it really helps.” What we read in books stays with us for four days. In that amount of time, neuroscience shows that our brains are rewired each day we visualize the book and think about the words and how they made us feel. Such memory recall can release chemicals like dopamine, the pleasure transmitter that plays a role in addiction.
“Shelf Help” vs. Self-Help
Reading for therapy is different than reading for self-help. Whole bookcases in bookstores around the world are dedicated to self-help. Fiction takes us out of ourselves and places us in a different world. Within this objective perspective, we are inclined to identify with characters and their experiences. Committing to the journey of a character in a book mirrors the commitment we make to ourselves on the journey of recovery.
Is this new?
Using reading for recovery purposes certainly isn’t new. Twelve step based recovery has been using The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous since its first publication. The Big Book is full of personal experiences, letters, and stories. Since it’s release, The Big Book has engaged millions of people worldwide in its pages, offering them an insight to alcoholism and a solution for recovery.
Faith based recovery uses biblical texts of varying religions and spiritualities. Indeed for almost any ailment, spiritual experiences through religious texts are healing. We know that God uses the vocal chords and written words of others to communicate. By reading, we see more of God’s wisdom in ourselves and others.
Center for Life Change encourages our patients to find inspiration through text. For more insight on how we approach addiction treatment and recovery, contact our offices at (951) 775-4000.