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Self-Help Reading Groups

Tuesday, Jan 08, 2008 at 4:35pm

No, they're not groups devoted to reading the latest Dr. Phil tome.

The Guardian UK has a fascinating look at the growing phenomenon of "bibliotherapy." While the idea that reading can have healing power dates back to Plato, using literature and reading groups in an almost homeopathic way seems to be taking off:

Medical staff tell stories of the remarkable successes they've seen: the neurological patient who sat in a group saying nothing for months, then after a reading of George Herbert's poem "The Flower" ("Who would have thought my shrivelled heart/Could have recovered greenness?") launched into a 10-minute monologue at the end of which he announced "I feel great"; the brain-damaged young man whose vocabulary significantly increased after he joined a book group; the husband caring for his disabled wife whose exposure to poetry has proved not just a respite but a liberation. To outsiders, the outcomes might seem small, but to the staff and patients concerned they're huge breakthroughs.

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