‘Power of Words’ means bibliotherapy is accessible to all

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GPs, health professionals, their patients and members of the general public now have access to a new selection of self-help books through the ‘Power of Words’ bibliotherapy scheme, launched by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Oisín Quinn today 15th January 2014.

Bibliotherapy is the use of books for therapeutic purposes. There is very good evidence for the effectiveness of high quality self-help books with psychological problems such as mild and moderate depression, anxiety, panic and eating disorders.  Studies have demonstrated that the best books can produce results comparable to those of drug therapy or psychotherapy. It can be highly effective when used as the main source of help, or in addition to prescribed medication or counselling.

A joint initiative between the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), and Dublin City Council’s library service, the collection features a selection of 97 books which have been read, reviewed and recommended by a group of psychologists and GPs working in Ireland as the best self-help books available.

The ‘Power of Words’ brochure with a list of the self-help books has been circulated to all GPs throughout the country and public libraries nationally.  GPs and other professionals working in mental health, such as counsellors, nurses and psychologists can recommend a high quality self-help book from this list to patients with mild to moderate psychological problems.

Members of the public can also access the list and 150-word book reviews directly from the HSE website http:www.hse.ie and Dublin City Libraries website http://bit.ly/KZ3eAo.

In order to make it easy for patients and members of the public to access the books, copies are freely available to borrow from public libraries around the country.

Speaking at the launch the Lord Mayor said that Dublin City Council was pleased to be working in partnership with the HSE and the GPs: ‘Our first bibliotherapy collection, launched in 2007, was a great success, and this collection is a great way of providing psychological therapy for people experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties’.

Elaine Martin, a HSE Senior Psychologist who is leading this initiative, said ‘Bibliotherapy gives people more choice in their approach to treating common psychological problems. It also gives large numbers of people free and immediate access to an effective psychological treatment’.

City Librarian Margaret Hayes said that to complement the launch of the collection a programme of free talks and workshops called Mind Yourself would run in branch libraries over the next two months: ‘Our free Mind Yourself programme will include talks, workshops and classes aimed at encouraging us to take time for ourselves, maybe try something new and achieve a deeper sense of well being’.

Dr Margaret O Riordan Medical Director of the GP body the ICGP said, “As a partner in this initiative the ICGP welcomes the launch of the updated list of books for the bibliotherapy scheme. The Power of Words is a useful resource to support patient empowerment and self management’.
Reaction from GPs has been positive, with one Dublin GP remarking ‘I have advised some of my patients to avail of this scheme and the feedback is very positive’, while another noted that although ‘This scheme is not for everyone’ for the patient who can avail of the scheme ‘it is an excellent resource ‘.

Irish research, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy (2010), suggests that people’s experience of bibliotherapy is positive with clients saying ‘… it gave me some insight into my condition that I didn’t have before’; ‘… if you can do the same job without taking the tablet, that’s what I wanted …’; ‘…the power is put in your hands; you can be proactive, you can take control’.


Further Information:

Dublin City Council - Media Relations Office T. 01 222 2170, M. 087 740 0277

HSE - Katherine Cregan, T. 046-9251312, M. 087 3801682 email: Katherine.cregan@hse.ie.

ICGP - Pearse Finnegan, pearse.finegan@icgp.ie

Notes for Editors

In March 2007, the first bibliotherapy scheme in Ireland was piloted in Dublin by Elaine Martin, HSE Senior Psychologist, in collaboration with Dublin City Public Libraries. The objective of the scheme was to give GPs, mental health professionals and patients choice in the treatment approach to some mild and moderate mental health difficulties. The scheme provided GPs and other professionals with a list of high quality self-help books. Practitioners in turn brought these books to the attention of their patients and clients who were likely to benefit from their use. The books were stocked by local libraries and therefore readily accessible.

The appetite for a self-help approach was great with over 2,500 books issued from six inner city libraries in the first year. Since that time similar local initiatives have sprung up throughout the country, e.g. ‘Your Good Self’ in Cork, ‘Mind Yourself’ in Wexford and Meath Healthy Reading Scheme.

In February 2009, a national book list entitled ‘The Power OF Words’ was launched by the HSE and the ICGP in collaboration with the Library Council of Ireland. The booklist was compiled by a team of psychologists who mainly selected books which incorporated treatment strategies with an evidence base.  Books were selected from recommendations yielded by Irish and international surveys with psychologists and therapists and many present self-help versions of the kind of therapy that would be given by a psychologist.  Some of the individual books on the booklist have demonstrated effectiveness in clinical trials.

Over the past year, the original Power of Words list has been revised and updated, reflecting and incorporating matters of concern to public health, developments in the treatment of various difficulties and the support needs of carers. This list now contains a long-list of 97 books and a short-list of 42 books, which have been read and reviewed by a group of psychologists and GPs working in Ireland. These revised lists have now been made available to all GPs throughout the country and have been circulated to all public libraries nationally.

The list includes books on many of the common emotional problems that adults experience, including depression, eating disorders, anxiety, social phobia, panic, anger, stress, low self-esteem. The short and long lists for children and families contain books on topics including parenting, worries, bullying, bereavement, separation and eating issues.