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My Journey

My journey of development towards becoming a structural social worker resulted, in part, from bibliotherapy and consciousness raising. Forms of bibliotherapy have likely existed since humans could speak (Hawley, & Spillman, 2003 cited in Jack, & Ronan, 2008; Myracle, 1995 cited in Jack, & Ronan, 2008) and consciousness raising grew out of 1960s feminism (Garcia, 1998).


In my first MSW class, Les Jerome mentioned the term ‘bibliotherapy’.  During the next two years, whenever possible, I chose to write papers on topics of interest. ‘Bibliotherapy’ often came to my mind when researching academic literature, grey literature and statistics.  Researching and then writing about topics of interest was a form of bibliotherapy that led to raising my own consciousness and levels of understanding and acceptance.

Bibliotherapy (also known as therapeutic reading) is a practice of therapy using books or other forms of literature (Pardeck, 1995; Cook, Earles-Vollrath, & Ganz, 2006; Jack, & Ronan, 2008) and I found academic literature and non-fiction books (including textbooks) to be particularly useful.

John Pardeck (1995) described four main bibliotherapy stages: (1) Problem identification; (2) Literature selection; (3) Literature presentation; and (4) Discussion (cited in Cook, Earles-Vollrath, & Ganz, 2006). While Pardeck’s writing was focused on bibliotherapy for young people and the discussion would be verbal, I find these stages very similar to stages undertaken to complete grad school assignments. Rather than verbalizing the discussion, discussions are written as a means of summarizing findings from the selection and presentation of literature.

Consciousness Raising

Consciousness-raising grew out of 1960s feminism where groups of women gathered to share collective experiences and to examine and challenge oppressive structures (Garcia, 1998).

Consciousness-raising works with clients and groups to provide understanding of oppressive systems and to empower clients to challenge those systems with alternative discourses and identities (Chesebro, Cragan & McCullough, 1973; Mullaly, 2010).

My consciousness was raised during grad school. As I learned more about structures of oppression and privilege, I became better prepared to challenge those structures.


Chesebro, J. W., Cragan, J. F., & McCullough, P. (1973). The small group technique of the radical revolutionary: A synthetic study of consciousness raising. Speech Monographs, 40(2), 136-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03637757309375788

Cook, K. E., Earles-Vollrath, T., & Ganz, J. B. (2006). Bibliotherapy. Intervention In School & Clinic, 42(2), 91-100. doi:10.1177/10534512060420020801

Garcia, A. M. (1998). Consciousness Raising. In W. Mankiller, G. Mink, M. Navarro, B. Smith, & G. Steinem (Eds.), The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/

Jack S., & Ronan, K.R. (2008) Bibliotherapy: Practice and Research School Psychology International 29, 161-182, doi:10.1177/0143034308090058

Mullaly, B. (2010). Challenging Oppression and Confronting Privilege (2nd ed.). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

Pardeck, J.T. (1995) Bibliotherapy: An Innovative Approach for Helping Children, Early Child Development and Care, 110(1), 83-88. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0300443951100106

One of my main goals was to suspend judgement of people and communities. An increased understanding of societal structures helped me to create new narratives that permitted enhanced levels of acceptance of others and of myself.

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