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Legitimising bibliotherapy: evidence‐based discourses in healthcare

Liz Brewster (Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Barbara Sen (Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Andrew Cox (Information School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 2 March 2012




The purpose of this paper is to explore how the use of self‐help bibliotherapy developed from a local pilot scheme to become national policy in Wales. Analysis aims to focus on the use of evidence‐based practice (EBP) as a justification in the process of policy creation.


A mixed methodological approach was used to gather data, incorporating semi‐structured interviews, documents, and descriptive statistics. Actor‐network theory (ANT) was used as a critical lens to frame analysis.


The study finds that the translation from local pilot to national initiative was achieved using legitimising discourses including EBP. These discourses were used selectively, and in response to the needs of the focal actors in the network. The complex relationship between EBP and self‐help bibliotherapy is explored in connection with healthcare policy, concluding that the use of EBP legitimises a lack of patient‐centred evaluation.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of the research include a lack of engagement with patients using the scheme, and future research should aim to present a more patient‐centred account to complement this policy‐focused work.


Little in‐depth work has been conducted on the strategy behind the introduction of bibliotherapy schemes in the UK or elsewhere, and this paper presents an in‐depth theoretical analysis of the first nationwide bibliotherapy scheme in the world.



Brewster, L., Sen, B. and Cox, A. (2012), "Legitimising bibliotherapy: evidence‐based discourses in healthcare", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 68 No. 2, pp. 185-205.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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