Book lovers have been raving about the healing powers of reading since the dawn of the paperback. And while some celebrity authors like J.K. Rowling even go the extra mile to help fans overcome their demons, even simply diving into a heavy read on body positivity, breakups or whatever hardship you’re going through can significantly help ease your pain. Well, it’s time to start celebrating, bibliophiles: Reading therapy is now a legit, scientific practice.


The idea of therapeutic reading is hardly new. Some experts claim that it was the ancient Grecians who were the first to explore the psychological benefits of reading. Others cite World War I as the onset of the movement, as traumatized veterans were prescribed certain novels to aid their transition back home. However it started, bibliotherapy has become quite the psychological fad recently — and yes, our inner nerds are super stoked.

The actual bibliotherapeutic practice is quite standard in terms of a typical therapy sesh. According to Ceridwen Dovey, a writer at the New Yorker and author of “Can Reading Make You Happier?,” bibliotherapists first ask their patients a series of questions regarding their life and reading style. After the therapists gauge their patients’ needs, they offer them a curated list of books to help them with their particular problem or struggle.

With clinics like the School of Life offering consultations either in person or via email, the only setback is the price. With each session costing a hefty $150, this innovative style of therapy will definitely cost you a pretty penny. Luckily, Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin created a self-guided reading therapy option entitled The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies ($14) for those who can’t afford the traditional route. The compendium lists common ailments just like a medical dictionary would — from being afraid of attending a dinner party to contemplating death — and then offers a corresponding novel or two to help you through it.


One of the most interesting parts of bibliotherapy is that the practice is actually backed by science. In a 2013 study published in Science, David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano from the New School for Social Research found that reading literary fiction improved participants’ social perception and empathy — two things that are crucial in order to make significant self-improvement.

Whether you curate your own self-guided fiction list or have an expert craft one for you, the power of reading can directly affect your psychology in the best possible way. And if nothing else, bibliotherapy gives you an awesome scientific excuse to splurge on a huge Amazon book haul.

What do you think of bibliotherapy? Tweet us your thoughts by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Featured photo via Getty)