Innovation Exchange

Bibliotherapy Service


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

The aim of the Bibliotherapy Service is to improve the health and wellbeing of people with mental health issues or poor well-being in Midlothian. It has intentionally been developed to be creative. Well-being is encouraged through the use of reading, writing, and storytelling. An external evaluation complemented the quantitative and qualitative data collected as part of continuous monitoring and evaluation within the Bibliotherapy service to focus on the impact of Bibliotherapy on participants' lives.

Theme: Health and Social Care

midlothian council logo

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.

Bibliotherapy has been shown locally to be of benefit to people suffering from mental health issues. Midlothian Health and Social Care partnership has committed to continuing existing provision through confirmed year long funding.


This new project aims to broaden access to Bibliotherapy, which can help improve mental health and wellbeing, prevent mental ill-health and encourage communities to engage in effective self-management. This proposal will extend access to this Bibliotherapy by developing a model of wider provision through existing local groups/services. We will do this by increasing the capacity of health and social care professionals and third sector colleagues to utilise Bibliotherapy approaches in their work. This offers a sustainable approach to embedding Bibliotherapy within communities.

The risks include not engaging organizations, not delivering effective training, support and resources and staff not embedding this work within their existing practice. However, due to the strength of the existing partnerships (as mentioned) and that the rationale for this work came from organizations themselves, we see these risks as limited.


The underlying rationale for the approach for this project is that building the capacity of staff is a more sustainable model of broadening access to Bibliotherapy services across the communities in Midlothian. We have been asked by partners to develop this work in order to support existing staff to conduct Bibliotherapy within their own settings.


Overall it is the intention that this project will impact on individuals and communities positively by widening access to Bibliotherapy. The positive impact on staff and organisations will also be measured. We will measure the success of the project using quantitative and qualitative approaches. The following will be reported on using the reporting schedule outlined in Section 6 (c) below:

  • Number of groups/organisations who engage with the project
  • Number of people who attend training
  • Changes in Bibliotherapy knowledge, confidence and skills among staff attending training
  • Feedback from organisations regarding their involvement
  • Feedback from individuals on the quality and usefulness of the training, tools and resources developed (including evaluation tools for their groups)
  • Number of groups/organisations who adopt Bibliotherapy work in their settings
  • Feedback from staff adopting Bibliotherapy on outcomes identified:
  • Observations of positive engagement in Bibliotherapy (we will develop an evaluation tool to help staff identify examples of this such as bringing materials to groups, speaking aloud during groups, expressing opinions/emotions etc.)
  • Data/feedback from participants who take part in Bibliotherapy within existing health and social care and third sector settings :
  • number of participants taking part
  • number who report a positive experience – target 90%

Bibliotherapy promotes the enjoyment of reading, listening and talking with one another, strengthen individuals’ self-confidence and introduce new materials and ways of thinking and problem solving. For example, evidence from research carried out by the University of Liverpool confirms the effectiveness of community-based Bibliotherapy for people with mild-moderate mental ill-health and long-term conditions (Billington et al, 2014)


Bibliotherapy also offers an effective approach to supporting healthy development and increased mental wellbeing across people regardless of their mental health history (Manecke, 2009). Bibliotherapy is a wide-reaching approach. It can support adults, children and young people across our communities through increasing confidence, self-esteem and emotional health literacy. This contributes to improved mental health and wellbeing within communities, and promotes effective self-management.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Jane Milne

Customer Services Manager

Midlothian Council

0131 271 3971

Case study added to site: June 2016

Please report any errors using this web form

Improvement Service, working in partnership with

solace scotland logo