Reading your way to good mental health

© Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.
© Glow Images. Model used for illustrative purposes.

What would you think if you went along to a doctor and you were prescribed a self-help book instead of medication? Well, that’s not so far-fetched as you might think.

A new project initiated by the UK’s The Reading Agency called the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, has doctors now prescribing books to patients with mental health problems such as anger, anxiety, binge eating, depression,  obsessions and compulsions, panic attacks, phobias, self-esteem, stress and worry.

The scheme, which works within the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines, and is backed by the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nursing and Psychiatry, the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies and the Department of Health, aims to bring reading’s healing benefits to sufferers of anxiety and depression.

According to the Reading Agency, “there is growing evidence showing that self-help reading can help people with certain mental health conditions get better.”  GPs and mental health professionals can prescribe patients a visit to the library, where they show their prescription for one or more of 30 endorsed books with acknowledged cognitive behavioral therapy benefits.

Books on Prescription has made it to New Zealand. It’s also being implemented at Boab Health Services in outback Australia’s Kimberley region. Boab says, “… the best self-help books can be highly effective … Many practitioners regularly recommend particular books to their clients or patients … The use of self-help books is known as ‘bibliotherapy’.” … a  coined term “for the therapeutic use of books in the treatment of illness or personal problems. Evidence in the UK, suggests that bibliotherapy has a therapeutic benefit for people experiencing common mental health issues.”

Books as medicine, sounds like it could be good news for many in the community. Some people have told me that being treated with drugs for mental health issues has led to other problems, such as adverse side-effects and dependency.  With that in mind, reading a self-help book could just be “what the doctor ordered”.

But help can’t be found in just any old tome.  If you want to improve your mental wellbeing, you might want to choose a book that has a proven track record. For example, it could be one that’s been around for a long time, has been read by many people around the world, and has perhaps even received testimonials regarding its practicality and effectiveness.

Another way to gauge a good self-help book is to ask if it’s one that brings inspiration, gives you a lift, encourages you to change your thinking or life-style, shows you how to be fearless and calm in difficult situations, or strengthens your mental resilience.

I can certainly testify that reading a self-help book is beneficial. Over the years I’ve referred to my two all-time favourites – the Scriptures and Science and Health, almost every day. These books have provided me with lots of practical ideas and helped me focus my thinking on life-changing spiritual ideas.  As a result, many times my exact need has been met. I’ve found uplifting, empowering concepts that have enabled me to beat anxiety or stress and lead a happier, healthier life.

Today, a growing number of people are turning to books that discuss the mind-body connection or explain the relationship between consciousness and experience.  This can be seen in the burgeoning number of books and magazines devoted to such topics. It seems that there is even a desire to explore a spiritually mental approach to mental and emotional health issues through books on meditation and prayer.

All of this interest augers well for the future of mental health. It’s quite possible that somewhere down the track, books will also be prescribed to people who suffer chronic pain or fatigue, or perhaps have relationship problems.  Stay tuned for more news on this front.  Books as medicine? I can’t think of a better prescription.

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I'm a Practitioner and Teacher of Christian Science healing in Melbourne, Australia, who also writes on the connection between spirituality and health, and how thought affects health. I like to share tips and ideas with readers on how to live a happy, healthy life.


  1. Pauline Rita Noorts says

    Thank you Beverly for again bringing to our attention the world activity and thought on this most important topic and the monumental change of attitude to health, much gratitude for your dedication to the field as Committee on Publication,……………Pauline.

    • says

      Thanks Pauline. It’s good to see new approaches being taken in the mental health area. A drug-free approach is most welcome.

  2. Yvonne says

    Hi Beverly. Your blog today made for very interesting reading. I was completely unaware of any self-help books or bibliotheraphy being used by the medical profession to treat mental illness. How encouraging for the patients to be able to help themselves by reading these books and not relying on drugs which only exacerbate the problem. Decades ago my father, who was not a Christian Scientist, insisted that I had medical treatment for a complete breakdown and it was the worst time in my life. Over the ensuing years Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health has been my only guide. Thank you for your good work. Love Yvonne

    • says

      Thank you Yvonne for leaving your comment. I am glad that you have found Science and Health such a help in your life. Many people tell me that this book has changed their life for the better. I know it has meant a great deal to three generations of women in my family.

    • says

      Thanks Kerrie for your comment. Yes it is good to hear that there is an alternative approach to treating some mental health issues. Helping people to help themselves is a positive step in the right direction..and it’s drug free.

  3. Keziah says

    What a wonderful advancement for mental health therapy, reading your way to better health. For me the self help aspect is very important. So often people with mental issues feel helpless, unable to take a stand for themselves, and I believe that this would provide them a positive step towards well being.
    The book Science and Health has been my companion for many years and has provided me the opportunity of healing through prayer.
    Many thanks once again for your thought provoking comments.

  4. says

    I am pleased to have your comment. It’s good to see progress taking place in the mental health area. Enabling people to take charge of their health is empowering for them. This, as you say, is a positive step. Glad to know that you read Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health and have found it helpful in your life.