Susan McLaine

Words That Heal

This presentation aims to look beyond traditional use of bibliotherapy, centred on self-help books in clinical settings, and to focus on the therapeutic use of imaginative literature, especially fiction and poetry. This ‘creative bibliotherapy’ is facilitated in read-aloud reading groups and is particularly beneficial to people who are vulnerable as a result of their situations, such as the homeless, the unemployed, new arrivals in Australia, residents in aged care facilities and those experiencing mental health problems. Delivered in this context, bibliotherapy has a broader potential than that of its traditional application. The focus is shifted to supporting wellbeing through offering a link between books and community.


Susan McLaine is a leading advocate of bibliotherapy (use of literature to help people deal with psychological, social and emotional problems). She has travelled to the UK to undertake further research and training in the field of bibliotherapy. Since 2009, she has been initiating Australian developments in bibliotherapy through developing and coordinating the State Library of Victoria’s Book Well program funded by VicHealth. Since 2010, Susan has been delivering bibliotherapy programs in marginalised communities.

Susan is president of the National Bibliotherapy Association of Australia. She is currently a PhD scholarship candidate at RMIT, further investigating bibliotherapy and is developing a wellbeing focused bibliotherapy program in collaboration with a psychologist and GP. She is also Associate Director of the National Education and Employment Foundation, an organisation committed to social research in collaboration with community and other social justice endeavours.