BIBLIOTHERAPY IN NURSING CARE FACILITIES
Charles A. Sourby, MS Ed. CTRS/HTR
Sixty percent of recreation therapists in the United States practice in nursing
care facilities or hospitals. This means that 14,400 recreation therapists provide
hundreds of thousands of service units to people with healthcare issues. Therapists
have opportunities to collect stories if they engage individuals in activities
that foster biographical information. Over the years I collected some interesting
tidbits of information through bibliotherapy.
Bibiotherapy sessions conducted with individuals or groups, lead to numerous
therapeutic moments. Individual sessions designed to meet specific needs, unblock
emotions and relieve emotional pressures. Additionally, self awareness, an enhanced
self concept and improved personal and social judgment are the main outcomes.
These outcomes result in improved behaviors, an ability to handle and understand
important life issues, increased empathy, tolerance, respect and acceptance of
The concept of bibliotherapy is not a new one. Aristotle believed that literature
had healing effects and the ancient Romans also recognized that there was some
relationship between medicine and reading. People who enjoy reading often make
use of their imagination and sense of humor. Residents, participating in bibliotherapy
session often express personal stories and memories.
One resident, Elsa shares some of her memories here for your edification. Bibliotherapy
is therapeutic and life affirming. One-on-one bibliotherapy sessions provide
a wealth of subjective information and a way to link the present to the past
while helping maintain a sense of self.
I was born in Freedman’s Hospital August 25th, 1920. I’m
proud of it. I think I had a nice childhood. It might
have been unusual. We were of medium
means but, I thought I was rich because I had everything, and it was the other
people who did not.
I learned a lot from the other people (like how to kill roaches) because we
have any roaches but, my best friend did. And I thought it was marvelous. I
grew-up in Washington and remained there for 30 some odd years until I came
to New York
My mother liked to sew, but she couldn’t sew. And she used to make these
little funny dresses for me (that I hated) but, because she made it, I had to
wear it. My mother told me I was a sweet child. Aunt Fanny told me I was the “queen “of
9th Street and my brother was the “king” of”9th Street.
Aunt Fanny and the Opening of the Trunk
I would like to tell you about Aunt Fanny. Aunt Fanny is my
sister and she worked here in New York City. The first time I had ever heard
of this great place called New York was because she lived there. And she worked
for a very wealthy family. And every summer they would go to Europe. And they
would give her choice of joining them, or come home. So, she always elected
to come home to see her mother. And she always brought this great big trunk
My Aunt Fanny was an old-fashioned lady. And she would bring out these dresses
- and that was how I learned good quality. These were dresses with French seams.
It had a little bias on the shoulder to hold up the strap- the bra strap or
the slip strap. Such quality, that I had never seen before or seen since. And
on one occasion: when Aunt Fanny opened the trunk she brought out high-top
shoes. I told you about the high-top shoes. I never wore high-top shoes but,
she wore high-top shoes and long dresses. It was Aunt Fanny, if you recall,
who told me before, that I was the queen of 9th Street.
Uncle Joe was Aunt Fanny’s brother, my mother’s brother also. And
Uncle Joe was a good-looking Brown-skinned man. He wore a derby and he wore
ah… I don’t know kind of coat it was but, it was just right, whatever
it was. And he wore spats. And he carried a cane. And he put on a performance...
When Uncle Joe came we’d know he would come with the cane, and we’d
be so happy to see him. I loved him because he loved everybody. And he certainly
loved me. And I think that’s all I can say about Uncle Joe. He always
had a joke…always had a joke and always had us laughing. And he would
laugh at Aunt Fanny and her long dresses, and her high top shoes. And by the
way Aunt Fanny, in my opinion, was just as old as my grandmother because she
wore the long dress and the high top shoes also. So I thought they were sisters…
In conclusion, bibliotherapy is a valuable modality to try
with residents. It appears to reaffirm their life in a way
that leads to healing, reflection and sense of self.
Article reprinted with permission of the author. All rights reserved.