Developmental Bibliotherapy can improve the Mental Health of Young Adults –  Like a Wellbeing Vitamin.

Young Adult literature which portrays mental illness realistically, with positive outcomes, and which introduces readers to the unreliable or fallible narrator and encourages them to see the world through different eyes.

What is Bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy is simply the practice of using books or, more broadly, stories to promote wellbeing or as part of the healing process.

Bibliotherapy is a new word for an old practice. The term itself was first coined by Samuel Crothers in 1916 working with soldiers returning from the First World War. 

But it’s history as a practice goes way back to the time when humans first harnessed fire to extend their functional hours beyond sunset – to the time when, around the campfire, they would gaze at the stars and the weather and create stories to explain and delight.

  • In 2020, Bibliotherapy can take many forms, from Talking to
    Booksellers, Librarians, Counsellors, Friends, Family and Self help, to reading with and for others.
  • Bibliotherapy embraces Fiction, non-fiction or poetry.
  • Bibliotherapy is suitable for all ages – from helping a preschooler worried about starting starting school, to helping in the rehabilitation of offenders in prison, or helping someone come to terms with retirement.
  • Bibliotherapy can be part of a structured course, or can happen during a casual conversation, or can take place while sitting reading under a tree.

Bibliotherapy can help to Foster Resilience, Change Perspective, Validate Experiences, Confront Anxiety and make us feel normal in a chaotic and uncertain world.

“Come, take choice of all my library, and so beguile thy sorrow” says TITUS ANDRONICUS in Shakespeare’s play. Circa 1590

But Bibliotherapy is not a panacea

Bibliotherapy, in the treatment of Mental Health Issues, is most effective when used with other treatments. In fact it can enhance the effectiveness of other treatments.

The research and comments on this web site relate to Developmental Bibliotherapy.

Developmental Bibliotherapy is:

Developmental bibliotherapy aims to prepare and guide young people through the issues they, or people close to them, might encounter during the normal course of adolescence, providing them with knowledge, language and skills to address these issues as early as possible, mitigating the disruption to their daily life as much as possible.

In Australia, one in seven young people will experience a mental health issue in any given year, and 25% of Australian adults who live with a mental health issue will have first encountered that issue during adolescence.

Developmental Bibliotherapy can act as a preventative Strategy – mitigating the disruption caused by mental illness by addressing stigmas and stereotypes, replacing fears and misinformation with factual information, strategies  and language, aimed at encouraging early intervention.

What does Developmental Bibliotherapy look like?

Many School Librarians will recognise the basic elements of Developmental Bibliotherapy…

  • Guided Reading of programs for Young Adults
  • Conducted by Trusted Adults such as Teacher Librarians & Classroom Teachers
  • Informally during class time or library visits
  • Using Young Adult Fiction written by trusted and respected authors

Designed to help teens navigate adolescence by

  • Providing authentic role models
  • Who can Give Insight & Guidance without preaching
  • As well as Information & Understanding in simple terms

The Activities and Printables page has Ideas, Activities and Lesson Plans for Implementing Developmental Bibliotherapy, 

Developmental Bibliotherapy improves mental health outcomes for Young People by

  • Encouraging a Growth Mindset that embraces Wellbeing as a worthwhile and achievable goal.
  • Increasing the Awareness of Developing Mental Health Issues and so Increasing Likelihood of Earlier Intervention
  • Cultivating Core Confidence by helping to build Hope, Efficacy, Resilience and Optimism
  • Reframing Eco-Anxiety to shift teens from Maladaptive (Flight and Freeze) responses to the Adaptive (Fight) response  to Ecological Grief.
  • Confronting Fears, Removing Feelings of Isolation & Validating Experiences



A quick overview of Developmental Bibliotherapy

If you’re new to Developmental Bibliotherapy – why not start with a video or a podcast.

Developmental Bibliotherapy in the Classroom on YouTube

Using Clifi to reframe Young People’s responses to Climate Change

Read4Life podcasts

Visit the other sections of the website for further information, references and activities.

Who is this web site for?

This web site is for School Librarians who are advocating for meaningful change in the lives of their students but are struggling with disappearing classes and shrinking budgets.

This web site is for Student Welfare Officers who have yet to discover why the School Librarian should be part of their Student Welfare Team.

This web site is for Curriculum Designers who want to provide meaningful and lifelong educational outcomes for their students but with a modest budget.

On this web site I have shared the evidence, the arguments, the activities and some of the resources School Librarians can use to advocate for this cost effective strategy, called Developmental Bibliotherapy, which can help young people navigate adolescence.

Hopefully you will discover why the School Librarian could be the most valuable Student Welfare Resource you’ve never thought of.

About Me

A love of Mathematics and Science led me on a path to a Bachelor of Education, followed by Graduate Diplomas in Computer Science and Information Management. But my seemingly insatiable thirst for information, a demand for answers and a love of books drew me into studies into Literature for Mental Health.

As a teacher librarian, I realised the special relationships many students build with their school librarian, helping them view their library as a safe place – a learning environment where they are able to explore ideas and be themselves free of judgement from others.

Buoyed by studies in Youth Mental Health First Aid , I began to investigate how Young Adult Fiction can mitigate the disruption of mental health issues in young people.

While not a panacea, I believe the evidence clearly shows that the School Library is a critical component of an education that enables our young people to build and maintain better mental health.

Reading For Wellbeing Download

This booklet was designed to be used by teachers, librarians, student welfare officers and parents. It was not intended that this booklet be available to all students, but that it augment programs and insights of teaching and welfare staff, and provide guidance and understanding of reading matter for the Young Adults in their care.

Words to live by…

We’re fools if we dance, and we’re fools if we don’t.
So we might as well dance.

Japanese Proverb

Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.

 Lao Tzu

Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping.

Jordan Peterson