Ask anyone who knew me then about the childhood me, and they would utter one word. Books.
I coveted a good read like others vied for precious diamonds. Would spend my last dime on a book. Planned my days around when I could resume reading. ANYWHERE. ANYTIME. Just like Sam I Am in my all-time childhood fave Green Eggs and Ham.
In adulthood, I came to realize reading didn’t simply entertain me. It cooed at me like my mother, cradled me, rocked me. Sung me a lullaby. In short, it calmed my rattled nerves, and gave me the safe place I needed in my often tension-filled home. With my books, I had hired a psychiatrist without knowing it.
Another think I never knew about? Bibliotherapy as an active therapeutic modality.
What is Bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy or book therapy is a creative arts therapy using storytelling or reading to heal. Other creative arts therapies include music, dance, writing, and art.
Sam Crothers coined the term in a 1916 Atlantic Monthly article, describing the technique of prescribing books to help patients understand and manage their particular problems. Book therapy gained its foothold when veterans hospital librarians and doctors teamed up to help WWI veterans returning from war. (Source)
Since then, the psychotherapy tool has spread into mainstream libraries, retirement homes, prisons, schools, and community centers, as well as being used by therapists in their private practices. It can help process personal pain ranging from bullying to bereavement.
While reading fiction, experts believe readers feel less isolated in their particular problem when they encounter a character with the same issue. And, as the fictional character works through and resolves the issue, the reader gains personal insights. (Source)
Can Bibliotherapy Help During the Pandemic?
Okay, you might say – I get that book therapy in the hands of a competent therapist might help. But what good does book therapy do me? I can’t afford a therapist, and right now, I wouldn’t go to one anyway. With my luck, I’d probably catch ‘Rona.
Agreed. Still, while a formal therapy session tailored to one’s individual needs may be a nonstarter, books can still have therapeutic value.
According to Chrissy Ryan, a professional book therapist, reading can provide escape in difficult times and ease feelings of loneliness. She advises readers looking for solace at this time to follow their instincts, and read books that help contextualize what they are currently feeling as well as relieve the mental pressure. (Source)
Escape the Madness
Good books and taking the time to read is just what I need to counteract the relentless information overload on Covid-19. And so I challenge myself now to turn off the TV, step away from CNN and BBC, and stop my saturation in panic. To remember the practice that has soothed me for many a decade. And to trust it can do so now, when I need it more than perhaps any time in my life.