Helping you get through tough times


Bibliotherapy is a type of therapy where literature is used to help you through a tough time. The types of literature can include self-help books, poetry, fiction and personal stories.

It can be done on your own, with a therapist or in a group.

bookshelf - ThomasBibliotherapy is recommended as a useful start in working your way through mild and moderate feelings of depression, anxiety, panic and other mental health problems.

Self-help books

Self-help books are designed to help someone through a tough time, change behaviour or to build resilience and improve coping skills.

There are self-help books out there on all sorts of topics from dealing with anger and panic attacks to coping with stressful events and increasing happiness.

Self-help books can help you understand what you’re going through, feel less alone and give you direction and activities to improve your well-being.

How does bibliotherapy work?

Most bibliotherapy recommended by mental health professionals is based upon the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT-based bibliotherapy is essentially an educational or training process. Not only may it help you to resolve current difficulties, but also to adopt more realistic ways of thinking to help you become more resilient against further episodes of, say, depression or panic.

Bibliotherapy adopts a problem-solving approach to getting through tough times and it helps you to learn more about what you’re going through. in this way, you are actively involved in getting through your tough time.

While it won’t work for everyone there is a good deal of evidence to support the claim that bibliotherapy can be an effective in helping people overcome a range of mental health problems.

When does bibliotherapy work?

As biliotherapy takes so much discipline it’s not for everyone. Whether bibliotherapy works or not depends not only on the quality of the book but also on your motivation and literacy. If you actively read the self-help material and enthusiastically complete the programme you are more likely to benefit than those who only partially read the material and fail to complete the exercises or to carry out the recommendations.

Whether it works or not also depends on what you’re going through. If you’re feeling really depressed or anxious, bibliotherapy alone might not be enough support for you.

For all of us if we’re going through a tough time it’s important we talk to friends and family about how we’re feeling. As well as talking to family and friends, everyone needs a little extra support from time-to-time and it may be the case that you may find it helpful to talk to a health professional like a GP, or counsellor.

Finding the right book for you

Most bookshops in Ireland stock self-help books of all descriptions. currently lists around 40,000 self-help books, with many of those addressing mild and moderate mental health problems. No wonder it can be bewildering when it comes to finding the best book for you; the one that will actually work.

These kinds of books can be recommended or prescribed by your GP or mental health professional, or ones you find yourself. Getting a recommendation from a friend, doctor or therapist can be a good way of choosing a book that may help you.

Different things work for different people and not every book will help everyone. It may take some time to find the right book for you.

The list of books below is taken from the Power of Words Scheme, which compiled a list of high-quality self-help books based on recommendations of psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists working in Ireland.

Most of the books included in the scheme are written by leading psychologists and many present self-help versions of established treatment programmes. This list is available to all GPs and the books are stocked in public libraries and in many good bookshops.

Recommended books


Book title



Anger Overcoming anger and irritability Will Davies Constable & Robinson & Robinson, 2000
Anxiety Overcoming anxiety Helen Kennedy Constable & Robinson, 2004
Anxiety How to stop worrying Frank Tallis Sheldon Press, 1990
Anxiety Overcoming anxiety and shyness Gillian Butler Constable & Robinson,2003
Bereavement The courage to grieve Judy Tatelbaum Harper Perenniat,1980
Bereavement Finding a way through when someone close has died (For children and teens) Pat Mood and Lesley Whittaker Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2001
Child sexual abuse (adult survivors) Breaking free: Help for survivors of child sexual abuse Carolyn Ainscough & Kay Toon Sheldan Press, 2000
Depression Depression: The common sense approach Bates, Tony Newleaf, 1999
Post-natal depression Coping with post-natal depression: Light at the end of the tunnel Mary Pigot Columbia Press, 1996
Depression/ anxiety/ self-esteem The feeling good handbook Burns, David Plume Books,1999
Obsessions and compulsions Overcoming obsessive compulsive disorder David Veale and Rob Willson Constable & Robinson, 2005
Panic When panic attacks Tubridy, Aine Newleaf, 2003
Practical psychotherapy Change for the better: Self-help through practical psychotherapy Elizabeth Wilde McCormick Continuum, 2002
Self-esteem Overcoming low self-esteem Fennell, Melanie Constable & Robinson, 2004
Stress The relaxation and stress reduction workbook (5th Ed) Martha Davis, Elisabeth Robbins Eshelman and Matthew McKay New Harbinger,2000
Traumatic stress Overcoming traumatic stress Herbert, Claudia & Wetmore, Ann Constable & Robinson, 2002

This article was last reviewed on 01 August 2017

What can I do now?

Follow us on Facebook