Bibliotherapy for Overcoming Depression
The traditional way of how we deal with depression is to visit a therapist to explore the source of our pain in the hope that talking it through will help us to transcend our unhappiness. Positive psychology as the emerging science of happiness is well known for its knowledge on how to raise well-being. What’s not so well known is how positive psychology’s scientifically-grounded tools can also help us to recover our well-being. Positive psychology has been described as evidence-based self-help for depression.
There is a strong need for tools to help us combat the world’s leading mental health disorder. According to the World Health Organisation less than 50% of those who suffer depression have access to effective treatment. In some countries this is as low as 10%. Many can’t access or afford talking therapies or find the pharmaceutical approach to overcoming depression isn’t for them. Books are an alternative – they are affordable compared to talking therapies but how effective are they as a means of overcoming depression? I wrote Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression as a guide to using these tools for mild-to-moderate depression and to prevent relapses. It was the first book worldwide to apply positive psychology to depression.
Prof Neil Frude, a clinical psychologist, is the pioneer behind bibliotherapy, using self-help books in the treatment of common mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. He started Books on Prescription, a project where doctors and other health professionals are able to prescribe self-help books to patients. The original scheme was launched in Cardiff in 2003 and was adopted throughout Wales 2 years later. Since then it’s been rolled out by GP surgeries, libraries and local authorities throughout the UK.
Katie Hanson, a psychologist who specialises in bibliotherapy, is running a study comparing Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression with a CBT self-help book – Overcoming Depression by Paul Gilbert. The results half way through the 8-week intervention show that both books are effective at reducing depression and improving well-being and 10% of the initial sample is no longer depressed.
The data shows depression and negative affect falling and increases in subjective happiness, satisfaction with life, positive affect and psychological well-being. This is very encouraging and shows the efficacy of a self-help book. Read a summary of the research so far as presented at the European Positive Psychology Conference in Amsterdam in July 2014.