Bibliotherapy can be an alternative to Prozac and psychotherapists.
Prose over Prozac
“We want to spark people’s imagination and show them that worlds exist other than theirs. Reading provokes empathy with people you have no relation to, from different cultures, religions and even ones who have committed atrocities,” says Ella Berthoud, co-founder of Bibliotherapy, a one-to-one book prescription and soft therapy less hardcore than being prescribed Prozac.
Berthoud wants us to treat reading as an outlet allowing us to escape the harshness of everyday reality as well as a form of therapy for people with ‘serious-but-not-so-serious’ problems.
The idea of prescribing books to heal sorrows or complaints came from Berthoud’s theory that — say your mother runs off with your teacher or your aunt is dying of cancer, you ought to be prescribed a book that would lift your spirits — help you disconnect or that you could relate to rather than seeking traditional therapy or popping open the pills and seeking escape through those means
Putting the prescription on paper
“We spoke about the idea of bibliotherapy as a one-to-one service people could use if they didn’t have a seriously big issue but rather needed to get through the nitty-grittiness of everyday life,” says Berthoud.
Her clients tend to be recent divorcees, people looking for love or facing recent bereavement.
Reading fiction (and occasionally non-fiction) becomes an alternative to therapy and medication.
Individual prescriptions of up to eight books and their significance are sent to the client following a questionnaire and short phone conversation.
The questionnaire asks for personal details in order to pinpoint at what stage they are at in their lives (single, married, career, age), and more about authors they love, the ones they hate and books they have read as a child or young adult.
Berthoud and her team then mull over ideas and discuss the prescription according to the clients’ individual needs and complaint, explaining why each book is good for them.
Flick to the dream
Bibliotherapy reflects upon someone’s situation and individual needs.
“Most of the time, people come to us seeking something unrelated to real life and that will make them dream or laugh out loud. They are after pure escapism, a book that will transport them into a crazy adventure with the flick of a page,” explains Berthoud.
It may not be profound, but its good therapy and tuned to each individual. Next time, think twice before judging a book by its cover.