The benefit to services/organisations includes working in partnership to develop and deliver a new approach to improving outcomes among the communities and individuals they serve. Bibliotherapy is a preventative model, which shifts focus away from illness and problems, promoting healthy interaction and development and improved mental wellbeing. The approach works best when it is co-produced and this fits with the ethos of the health and social care and third sector organisations throughout Midlothian. We have been asked to develop this approach by key partners, for example Midlothian Surestart and have been approached by other organisations interested in accessing Bibliotherapy for their target populations (e.g. Lothians Veterans Centre). Through partnerships like these (and using the model described) more impact can be made across a wider number of people in communities across Midlothian.
The benefit to staff includes developing new skills and feeling confident and motivated to deliver a new approach within existing groups/organisations. In addition, by tapping into the existing knowledge of staff of their group(s), Bibliotherapy is likely to be more effective. We have direct experience of this within our carer’s group, with preparations involving discussions between our Bibliotherapist and VOCAL regarding group management and selection of imaginative fiction and poetry for the sessions.
The benefit to participants of using existing groups is due to the shared experiences and familiarity participants have with one another. This can help with developing positive empathetic and caring relationships (crucial for good Bibliotherapy practice) and provides a good indicator as to when choosing relevant pieces for Bibliotherapy work (due to shared interests, concerns, constraints etc.). Furthermore, although our existing service has sought to be inclusive to individuals from all backgrounds, we recognise extending groups/services will allow individuals who would not, or could not, attend library-based services to participate in Bibliotherapy (for example, families who attend Midlothian Surestart centres often cannot attend existing library groups due to childcare constraints). Greater’ buy-in’ is likely to be achieved for taking part in a Bibliotherapy group when it forms part of participants’ attending an existing service/organisation. We have pre-existing experience of this, for example, up to 25 women with a history of mental health issues have taken part in Bibliotherapy using an outreach into their existing support group (Pink Ladies) on a monthly basis.
The prospects for positive intergenerational effects with Bibliotherapy delivered through this approach are also high. For example, by working with Midlothian Surestart to deliver Bibliotherapy we will engage vulnerable families. This will promote enjoyment and importance of reading (which will filter across children, grandparents etc.), as well as helping families use social stories, for example to explain and problem solve relevant issues in their lives (such as bereavement, substance misuse etc.).
The benefit to citizens, communities, council and public services is that a sustainable model for the delivery of much-needed Bibliotherapy services can be rolled-out in a cost-effective and efficient way. By building on current delivery in the library setting, this year long external funding will create a model which can be rolled-out across organisations in Midlothian, not only this year but in future years, with no requirement for additional funding. In future years, this model could be used and developed across third sector organisations across Scotland and the UK. This proposed model is entirely cost effective and counters the need to employ numerous bibliotherapists across Midlothian. The model builds on and develops existing skills in a wide network of professionals in order to deliver benefits to a wide range of citizens and communities of need.