Home mental fitness On Bibliotherapy and How Art Can Help Us Cope

On Bibliotherapy and How Art Can Help Us Cope

by Marianne Navada

Consumption of art in various forms (text, audio, visual), offers a way to analyze and cope with life challenges. And if you look closely and keep an open mind, popular culture can be a source, not just of entertainment, but life lessons too. 

For instance, bibliotherapy refers to a clinical method, which uses books, fiction and nonfiction, to handle mental health issues. In a clinical setting, the therapist, sometimes with the help of the client, develops a reading list. They then discuss the books in a way that works through the client’s issues. Bibliotherapy can also be done in an informal setting. 

An article in The Walrus explains bibliotherapy in more detail. The piece outlines the method, historical development, and practical applications well. It’s worth a read if you want to learn more about it. 

According to a woman who used the method in her therapy sessions: 

In regular therapy, you’re looking at yourself. It can be really hard. It’s too vulnerable. It’s too naked. Whereas, when relying on literature, it’s a gentler way of processing the more painful things.

Textual Healing: The Novel World of Bibliotherapy | The Walrus

It makes sense to me.

I believe that the same principle can be applied to visual media such as movies and shows. 


In the hierarchy of activities we value as a society, reading ranks higher than watching shows or movies, but the two mediums have their strengths. And downplaying the power of the screen can deprive you of the enrichment it can offer. 

Of course, clinical bibliotherapy is not the same as an informal way of using entertainment to cope with life challenges. However, I find it enriching to reflect on movies and shows that entertain. There’s always a lesson to learn, a character that inspires. It can make me feel understood, while at the same time gaining a different perspective. 

Recently, I find myself learning and comforted by movies and shows that deal with feeling left out in a fast changing world.

When the World Feels Like It’s Moving Too Fast: My List

Whether it’s technological or cultural shifts, social changes can sometimes make me feel lost, regardless of how prepared I think I am. I compiled a list of movies that address the idea of feeling like you can’t keep up in a world moving too fast.

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: a tech-takeover of his company renders Walter’s job insignificant. The movie also has a killer soundtrack with lyrics such as: 

There’s a rhythm in rush these days
Where the lights don’t move and the colors don’t fade
Leaves you empty with nothing but dreams
In a world gone shallow
In a world gone lean
from Stay Alive by José González

  • And Just Like That..: The show is especially poignant if you watched the original Sex and the City series and the movies. The show’s reboot features the characters now in their 50s. We witness stories of how women and parents, regardless of marital status, deal with current social issues focused on relationships based on gender, race, and social class.
  • Interstellar: even with all the technology, science, and data, love gives us an instinct that can’t be quantified. 
Commit to living.