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Thinking about joining a Book Club?

Updated: Mar 17




The Stories We Tell Ourselves - About Ourselves - Matter!


Narrative therapy is a powerful tool to bring into the therapy room, but many people may have never heard of this intervention. Many different approaches to therapy - CBT, DBT, psychodynamic, existential - work to some degree with challenging a person's narrative, particularly the aspects of the narrative that are maladaptive. With narrative therapy, we lean into this intervention of challenging narratives. We can bring in both non-fiction and fiction literature to bolster the process of reflecting upon and re-writing our own personal narratives.


Understanding Narrative Therapy


Have you ever read a book and considered ways in which you relate personally to the character and the challenges they experience? Of course you have! Reading gives us a gateway into a new world, a new perspective, and a new narrative on the experience of being alive. When we read, we reflect on the ways the story may reinforce or contradict the narratives we tell ourselves in our own lives, even if it is on a subconscious level. With narrative therapy, we can lean into the premise that individuals are not defined by their problems but by the stories they construct about themselves. Developed by Michael White and David Epston, this therapeutic approach encourages individuals to externalize their issues, viewing them as separate from their identities. By doing so, individuals can examine their struggles from a more objective standpoint, opening avenues for change and growth.


Harnessing the Power of Reading


Literature provides a vast reservoir of knowledge, offering diverse perspectives and insights into the human experience. From memoirs detailing personal struggles to fantasy novels describing lush scenes of romantic and daring adventures, reading enriches our understanding of mental health and fosters empathy and self-awareness.


Benefits of Reading for Mental Health:


  • Validation and Understanding: Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (Gillihan & Newman, 2012) suggests that reading non-fiction literature about mental health can provide individuals with validation and understanding of their own experiences, reducing feelings of isolation and stigma.

  • Insight and Reflection: A study published in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (Kidd & Castano, 2013) found that reading literary fiction, which often includes non-fiction elements, promotes cognitive and emotional empathy, encouraging readers to reflect on their own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

  • Learning Coping Mechanisms: Many self-help books offer evidence-based strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. Research in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, & Fang, 2012) highlights the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral techniques commonly found in self-help literature for treating various mental health conditions.


The Role of Book Clubs in Mental Health

Book clubs provide a supportive community for individuals to engage in meaningful discussions about literature and life. In the context of mental health, book clubs offer a safe space for members to share their thoughts and emotions, fostering connections and reducing feelings of isolation. Moreover, participating in book clubs promotes active listening and empathy, essential skills for building healthy relationships and navigating interpersonal challenges.


Benefits of Book Clubs for Mental Health:

  • Social Connection: A study published in PLOS One (Tibbits, Deal, & McCurdy, 2018) suggests that social connectedness plays a vital role in mental health and well-being. Book clubs facilitate social interaction and foster a sense of belonging, combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Intellectual Stimulation: Engaging in discussions about literature stimulates cognitive function and enhances critical thinking skills. Research in Psychology and Aging (Hultsch, Hertzog, Small, & Dixon, 1999) indicates that intellectually stimulating activities, such as participating in book clubs, may help preserve cognitive function in older adults.

  • Emotional Support: Book club members offer empathy and support, creating a nurturing environment for individuals to express themselves authentically. A study in Health Communication (Glei, Goldman, & Ryff, 2019) underscores the importance of social support in buffering against the negative effects of stress on mental health.

Conclusion


Incorporating narrative therapy principles and non-fiction reading into one's mental health journey can be immensely beneficial. By reframing personal narratives and expanding perspectives through literature, individuals gain insight, resilience, and a deeper understanding of themselves and others. Furthermore, participating in book clubs nurtures social connections and provides valuable emotional support, enriching the journey toward mental well-being.


As you embark on your exploration of narrative therapy and non-fiction reading, remember that every page turned is a step toward self-discovery and healing.


Sources:

  • Gillihan, S. J., & Newman, M. G. (2012). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 416-421.

  • Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 7(4), 298–303.

  • Hofmann, S. G., Asnaani, A., Vonk, I. J., Sawyer, A. T., & Fang, A. (2012). The efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(4), 624–630.

  • Tibbits, M., Deal, B., & McCurdy, M. (2018). How social support contributes to psychological health: A qualitative study of survivors of intimate partner violence. PLOS One, 13(1), e0191309.

  • Hultsch, D. F., Hertzog, C., Small, B. J., & Dixon, R. A. (1999). Use it or lose it: Engaged lifestyle as a buffer of cognitive decline in aging? Psychology and Aging, 14(2), 245–263.

  • Glei, D. A., Goldman, N., & Ryff, C. D. (2019). Social relationships and inflammatory markers: An analysis of Taiwan and the U.S. Health Communication, 34(9), 1049–1057.

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