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Things you can learn from books : Exploring the therapeutic potential of eating disorder memoirs
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Margaret McallisterMargaret Mcallister, Donna BrienDonna Brien, Trudi FlynnTrudi Flynn, June AlexanderJune Alexander
Innovations are required to move the rhetoric of recovery into practice. Mental health nurses do, or should, have expertise is in the development of psychosocial interventions. Concurrently, consumers are demonstrating their expertise is in the establishment of recovery groups, which are peer led, group-oriented and forward thinking. Drawing these two sets of expertise together, there is the potential for recovery-oriented practices to expand and flourish and for genuine mutual benefit to occur.The recent paper by Byrne et al (2013) reminded readers that there are things that simply cannot be learned from books. This is very true, but there are also many things that can be gained and achieved through immersion in a good book.Memoirs describing the lived experience of having a mental health problem, and eating disorders in particular, account for large sales within popular literature. By virtue of their accessibility, memoirs could offer to a large audience the potentially therapeutic benefits of universality, catharsis, hope and guidance. These books present the author as an expert in their own illness and recovery, and by extension, enable the consumer reader to recognise both their own expertise, and responsibility for their own process of healing. Face to face and online Recovery groups that operate in several eating disorder organisations could make use of these books as a contemporary form of bibliotherapy during their meetings. Consumers could co-study memoirs with therapists, or with other consumers in group programs or book clubs. This paper explores the groundwork that is needed before eating disorder memoirs can be confidently recommended as an empowering tool in the therapeutic context. Collaboration between mental health nurses and consumers can then drive the development of interventions that may maximise the therapeutic potential of this readily accessible recovery resource.