||I am a Bibliotherapist - I use the ancient Greek practice of healing through reading.
I use short stories and poetry to promote and build a strong mental and emotional
wellbeing, without worry of stigma or being labelled. I use the characters in a
story to create conditions within a group setting where the capacity for empathy,
discussion and understanding can flourish and grow, enabling emotions to be brought
to the surface that might not be raised otherwise. It allows us to come together
to talk at the same table. As a participative therapy, this in turn promotes therapeutic
Do you feel worried about talking and expressing how you feel mentally? Are you
afraid that you may be discriminated against or be labelled with the stigma of experiencing
poor mental health? Do the words mental health make you feel uncomfortable and anxious?
Unlike some physical illness where symptoms are visible, mental health is easier
to hide. Everyone around you will probably not be aware that you are suffering.
Mental health is still difficult to talk about for many of us.
If you can relate to any of the above then Tales for Tea can help you. Words are
powerful tools. The wonder of bibliotherapy is that it allows you to be part of
a group, sharing thoughts and feelings, through the connection of stories and poetry.
My name is Sharon Dunscombe and I am a passionate believer in the fact that stories
and poems have the ability to heal and help holistically address many ailments or
issues including alleviating depression, pain, isolation, stress, anxiety and grief.
I also know that they can help “make a moment matter” when read to people living
with dementia. As Virginia Woolf once said, “Books are the mirrors of the soul.”
Literature – words - are powerful tools and can be used to make us feel better by
connecting us with the lives and situations of the characters; by using them as
a vessel to relate to others how we may be feeling. Used in bibliotherapy, they
have enormous healing properties and are capable of enabling a deep connection to
the work and to others, when read out loud in an intimate group setting. They allow
us to come together, to talk at the same table.
Can you remember the last time someone read to you out loud? We feel comfort when
we are read to. We feel cherished and safe. Some of us can remember being read to
as a child and it is this nurtured feeling that Tales for Tea and bibliotherapy
By listening to someone read out loud, our mind is given the freedom and the opportunity
to connect with a story or poem at a much more considered level, which in turn permits
a deeper understanding of relationships or situations. This process encourages light
to be shed on anxieties and worries that we would not normally raise in the pattern
of our busy everyday lives. It brings a more intuitive understanding and opens our
eyes and minds to underlying truths. Discussion without worry of stigma or being
labelled can then take place.
I have been putting bibliotherapy into practice since 2004, after running reading
groups for junior school children as part of my development as a Level 3 NVQ Classroom
After studying for a BA (Hons) degree in English Literature, I returned to my interest
in bibliotherapy and I applied to train as a Shared Reading Facilitator at Kensington
& Chelsea Library. I am now an independent Bibliotherapist and Founder of Tales
I have worked with students and lecturers at Exeter College, Royal Borough of Kensington
and Chelsea Libraries, Made-Well Community Project, Help for Heroes, Recovery Devon,
CRISIS Winter Rough Sleepers and Dementia Pathfinders. I work in retirement villages
(St. Monica Trust) and hold sessions at various retreats around the country.
I am a regular speaker at NHS Conferences and Events and I also host a weekly radio
show at UK Health Radio, where I present a one-hour bibliotherapy session to a large
audience worldwide. I am an Ambassador for the Reading Agency’s World book Night
and am part of the BBC’s “Get Creative” Team.
I am also excited to be working with Dr. Surendra Dass, Chairman of the IHF Wellness
Orbitarium, Nagpur, who is promoting and supporting Tales for Tea to introduce a
programme of bibliotherapy to India.
a book club or reading group, where you may feel under pressure to have critical
knowledge of the book, Tales for Tea offers you just the stories themselves. I offer
you characters, and the stories that they have to tell, as a vessel, like an invisibility
cloak, to wrap yourself up, connect and relate to what you might be feeling. It
is this connection and sharing with a group that promotes a therapeutic response
in a nurturing, holistic environment.
It is my duty as a Bibliotherapist to make personal connections between the content
of the books and the people I read to. I normally run a group with six to eight
members, which takes approximately two hours. Every member of the group has an opportunity
to read out-loud and this is highly encouraged although, most certainly not, insisted
The text rich titles I use as material will include extracts from the classics,
modern literature, short stories and poems. These stories will have no relation
to the kind of ailment the group members may be experiencing. My sessions are facilitated
to take members away from their troubles for the duration, not to focus or highlight
them, unless issues are raised specifically by themselves and are drawn from the
reading of the text. It aims to enrich life quality and life spirit through looking
for the wisdom to be found in writing.
It has three recognized stages: (1) identification, (2) catharsis, and (3) insight.
Identification is when a reader associates themselves with the character or situation
in the literary work. Catharsis is when the reader shares many of the same thoughts
and feelings of the characters in the literary work, and insight is when the reader
realizes that they relate to the character or situation and learn to deal more effectively
with their own personal issues.
If you are an individual, you are welcome to join any of my groups. There will never
be more than ten people in any given group, as this is the number that works well
in allowing each person space to explore and share their thoughts. There is no minimum
amount of weeks that you are required to commit to. One week, a hundred weeks –
you will always be welcome. Please contact me if you would like to join a group.
One-to-one sessions also work well as they allow for a more tailored, personal experience.
Please contact me to discuss further.
If you are interested in getting friends together and forming a group for me to
run, the maximum number of people is ten for the reasons given above. I am always
happy to discuss the formation of new groups and I am never going to run out of
My contact details are:-
Links to recommended sites:
Sue Cornish - Adult Learning Co-ordinator at Tri-borough Libraries and Archives
“Sharon has great enthusiasm and commitment and has made a difference to so many
people (including me) in the London Boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith
& Fulham. She has professionalism and sensitivity in all situations and it is a
privilege to know and work with her.”
James Woodridge – Recovery Devon
“Recovery Devon is a community interest company with a focus on recovery and well-being
in relation to mental health. We have been delighted to work with Tales for Tea
and Sharon has delivered several sessions at our group open meetings.
The sessions have always been well received and for me personally, it was a surprise
to listen to words with ‘new’ ears and find that I experienced a re-awakening of
my love for language. For those of us that have not been read to since childhood
there was a sense of comfort and safety previously only experienced when bedtime
stories were part of growing up. Sharon is an accomplished facilitator and led us
through the process with great confidence and above all, her passion for this therapy
is evident to those who hear her speak”.
“It's very therapeutic it allows me to have a break and stop thinking about my problems.
I think Sharon is very good and encourages others to read. I look forward to going
to the group on a Friday because it gives me time to blend in with a group of people
who like to listen or read. We have been reading Wind in the Willows. Each week
Sharon brings a poem along and asks us what we like about the poem in senses or
words. I think Wind in the Willows will be finished this week. I have suggested
one of the Little House on the Prarie books because I've previously read about the
author"." Sharon's energy and enthusiasm for the 'Tales for Tea' sessions is infectious,
leaving participants completely absorbed and hungry to read and listen further."
Helen, Face-Book Follower
"I had written on your facebook wall that I would pass on my feedback after you
kindly gave me the link for your interview on Radio Gorgeous. I wanted to let you
know I really enjoyed listening to it – and was very impressed with what I heard.
It was interesting for me to learn about bibliotherapy and creati...ve bibliotherapy
– not something I had come across until I found ‘Tales for Tea’ on Facebook.
I felt you explained everything clearly and came across as ‘knowing what you were
talking about’. Your passion, commitment and enthusiasm - all very admirable and
inspiring - were evident and I loved the “determined to make it work” comment towards
the end of the interview; good for you! You made me smile at the beginning of the
interview too when you talked about not prescribing self-help books! Having listened
to your interview I felt that someone who was thinking they may benefit from creative
bibliotherapy would feel reassured enough to contact you and try to attend a session
because I was left with positive feelings about your work and had the impression
the sessions are open, welcoming and supportive. I would feel reassured by your
gentle persuasion to participate rather than a pressurised push. The constructive
approach also appeals to me; I appreciate how much you prepare for a session (perhaps
because I used to be an adult literacy teacher so understand how time-consuming
the preparation stage is but how important it is). Not to be taken for granted,
throughout the interview I found your clearly spoken voice, pace and tone comfortable
to listen to so I didn’t ‘switch off’ which I find sometimes happens when I listen
I thought the interview was excellent because you had packed in a lot of information
in a short amount of time. In those few minutes I discovered a bit about the history
of bibliotherapy, how and why you are doing this, what happens in a group and you
even managed to fit in a mention of some authors and books ~ which always grabs
my attention. Although you had managed to pack so much into the interview you had
raised my curiosity enough to make me want to find out even more by visiting your
website, which I guess was another aim of the interview.
I’m sure many listeners will have found the interview at Radio Gorgeous useful so
I hope it is for you too.
St George’s Hospital, Tooting, Young Onset Dementia Support Group Meeting
Comments made by people attending Tales for Tea session
- Enjoyable, illuminating, touching.
- Surprised by the level of interaction and discussion promoted
- Excellent choice of literature designed to stimulate the senses. Leader successful
in getting participation from everyone. Patients with dementia were engaged and
responding even if they did not contribute, the partner was enthusiastic and responsive.
- There are no words to describe the two friends from different paths sharing such
a lovely friendship. It shows that one can conquer anything in the world with friendship,
love, understanding and determination.
- It’s magical, how two people help each other and support each other.
- We very much enjoyed the story – it was well chosen, with lots of action and description
and a real sense of fun.
- Bibliotherapy was wonderful we both benefitted from it and are now thinking of trying
‘talking books’. Thank you Sharon.
"We are a Community Interest Company (not for profit) that offers ‘day services’
to Adults with a range of different needs (including Learning Disability/Difficulty
,Physical Disability and Mental Health challenges). Each day of attendance is funded
either by the State or the individual and people come on a number of days to suit
their budget/needs…We are a very practical service and everything we do has a purpose,
our ethos pivots around treating people with dignity& respect and supporting people
to be the very best that they can be !
Participation in Sharon’s group has given people increased confidence , capacity
to work in a group so having to take turns and share, to have time and space to
think and reflect and the books help as ‘enablers’ connecting the fictional literary
world with their own…it helps that Sharon commits to the group with 100% passion
and dedication and this rubs off…so what started out as one of those “lets give
it a go” sessions to one which has become a regular fixture with regular participants
who look forward to their quiet Friday afternoon time with her and her books!"