Why is literature an asset to therapeutic practise?
A 68% reduction in stress has been reported and regular readers can boast up to two years longer life.
When we consider psychotherapy, in general the aims are as follows:
Response – gain a response by signs of engagement.
Remission – improvement phase, development, change, new and healthier conclusions.
Recovery – a length of time has elapsed since the occurrence of non-helpful or otherwise harmful behaviour or thought.
Talking therapies have the same aim overall; to see an individual move from where they are, to a better state of self management and emotional contentment, thus living happier and more fulfilling lives.
Talking therapies include:
Counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Behavioural Activation – For people with depression, and Mindfulness based cognitive therapy which focuses on the clients thoughts and feelings as they happen.
Guided Self Help is essentially what ULT activities are providing, however with GSH therapy you complete a CBT based workbook with the support of a therapist, which can often make an immense difference to how you cope while growing as a person. It’s not always easy.
While writing in this journal style way can encourage good reflection, enhance coping skills and mindfulness, and provide a stronger self awareness, it is also important to recognise the value of writing fiction and of reading in general and how it can provide support for health and well being.
Both reading and writing improve language use and the processing of experience; A more broad vocabulary enables a wider ability to express emotion and to conceptualise. This in turn can support someone in therapy towards a better recognition of what is normal, should be expected, and is acceptable, particularly when there are follow up discussions exploring topics and characters in greater depth. The rehearsal can foster greater conceptualisation as perspectives are shared and evaluated against appropriate behavioural schemas.
There are many different reasons to read and write. Many of the key benefits include; escapism, freedom, gained knowledge, company in the form of characters, bonding with other readers… and on. We can recognise through this that there is a social, emotional, and soul level relationship between the reader/writer and the literature.
Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual
We exist in multiple ways and have needs in each of them. We are physical beings and we have to have our baseline needs met… food, water, shelter. We are emotional beings in that we need connections with others to thrive mentally. We are mental beings in that we like things to make sense, need adequate stimulation, and to know what we are doing in order to remain sane and self efficacious. We are spiritual beings in that we are energetic, sense things, and can self perceive. Without a moral guide we feel “lost” and without striving to be decent we are unsatisfied. Our self perceptions can become our worst enemy or our best friend.
If we can suppose that we are meeting three out of four needs with an activity then it is surely only reasonable to assume that the activity is a service to the self.
On the emotional level, reading and writing both fiction and non-fiction provides a sense of satisfaction. Fiction however has ample opportunity to introduce characters with whom great experiences will be had in the form of adventure.
On the mental level we become stimulated. Whether learning something, exploring someone else’s life in an auto/biography, writing our own literature, or being lost in adventure, our brains react when we engage. Restoring ourselves by escaping enables greater well being.
On the energetic level we are affected by literature and this is something people often seek… to be moved. Good literature can be very refreshing for the soul and release energetic blockages by providing an alternative state of being.
Using the clients preferences, a practitioner could present particular literature for them to read and make a point of discussing the themes and happenings to form new psychological pathways. Sometimes it is easier to recognise a distortion when the happening is a layer removed – to observe in another rather than the self.
Alternatively a practitioner might ask a client about their reading in general with the aim of discovering what a client takes from and enjoys about the activity. By doing this they can build rapport and more easily identify what brings a person joy or satisfaction in life.