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Basically, bibliotherapy is a form of psychological dieting prescribed through reading a book in the same way that medicine provides a prescription. These readings are intended to foster the development of maturity and sustained mental health. Generally, the manuals used for therapy consist of a series of steps which are, in themselves, strategies leading to the self-management of use. Thus, treatment programs can be divided into three stages which primarily consist of: the preparation stage, the achievement of planned objectives stage and the stage of maintenance through applying a series of principles governing human behaviour in general. Bibliotherapy can also be defined as a cognitive behavioural program that attempts to pinpoint the current consumption problem, reduce consumption and empower the individual, and effectively confront situations that lead to excessive consumption.
To summarize, bibliotherapy programs primarily target values and attitudes as opposed to behaviour change (unless used as an adjunct to more intensive treatment programming). Overall, there is a host of methodological problems associated with existing evaluations of bibliotherapy programs that make it extremely difficult to comment on their likely effectiveness.
In the field of corrections, there is not a great deal of research on bibliotherapy. The results from a 1991 evaluation on bibliotherapy delivered to federal parolees in Canada suggests that this program did not have a significant impact on changing attitudes or behaviour. The evaluation report commented that the program was better suited to offenders at institution sites or C.C.C.'s.
Regardless of the ambiguity associated with the likely impact of bibliotherapy programs, there may still be value in introducing this type of intervention within CSC. A number of development issues would have to be addressed before introducing a bibliotherapy program into a correctional setting. Once a proper bibliotherapy program is identified, there are a number of possible advantages to offering this intervention to offenders: 1) they are relatively inexpensive to implement; 2) they can cover a wide range of topics over a relatively short time frame; 3) they involve substantially less delivery time on the part of treatment providers; 4) they can target large groups of offenders for enrolment; 5) they can be tailored for special needs groups (e.g. offenders with literacy problems); and, 6) they offer an alternative to the programs focused on the group process.
References for Bibliotherapy:
Brochu, S., Emond, S. (1991), Report on the Admissibility of a Secondary Intervention Program in Drug Addiction for CSC Parolees, Montreal: University of Montreal.
Correctional Service of Canada. (1989), Task Force on the Reduction of Substance Abuse: Volume Three, Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada.