This New Form of Therapy is Perfect for Book Lovers
There’s something magical about finding a novel that’s relevant to whatever you’re going through in your life. When you can perfectly identify with the protagonist, their journey becomes yours, and you learn the same lessons they do. By the time you finish the book, you may or may not feel better equipped to handle your problems, but at the very least, you’re left with the reassuring sense that you’re not alone.
Bibliotherapists harness the healing power of books by “prescribing” novels to clients. The School of Life—a London-based organization which helps people develop emotional intelligence through the humanities—offers remote therapy sessions.
Clients are sent a questionnaire about their reading habits and whatever life questions or problems are preoccupying them at the moment. Upon signing up and completing the questionnaire, you get an instant prescription, and after two to three days, a therapist will send you your full prescription and arrange a Skype session. Ceridwen Dovey of The New Yorker has written an excellent article about her experience here.
However, Dovey did receive her therapy sessions as a gift. If you aren’t willing to fork out 100 pounds for literary enlightenment, The School of Life has put up this nifty website with book recommendations for people’s most common areas of concern, including work, love, anxiety, and politics. Simply click on a heading, then select the question closest to what's bothering you.
For example, if you feel you lack self-confidence, the website recommends Ecce Homo—Nietzche's autobiography whose title translates to "Behold, The Man"—and explains that a "dispassionate" examination of one's life, without exaggerating victories or dwelling on failures, can lead to a better appreciation of one's accomplishments.
If you want prescriptions for more specific emotional ailments, The School of Life's bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin have published The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You, which is available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover format on Amazon.com.