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Bibliotherapy - Reading your way to health

“A growing number of therapists are recommending something surprising for depressed and anxious patients: Read a book” (WSJ print edition, 31 July 2007). In the UK, “the national health system has embraced bibliotherapy as the first line of treatment for non-emergency cases.”

Yes, to forget about myself and enter a new world absolutely not the world I know – every ardent reader depressed or not, knows the feeling. However the therapy, which seems to be effective in mild cases, is not quite the fictional adventure I was dreaming about.

The program varies, but the book prescription is for a self-help book such as Feeling Good by David D. Burns (Stanford, 1980).

In Italy, young people are still required to read Dante’s Divine Comedy. In Britain young readers once read Dickens’s A Christmas Carol with Scrooge confronting his past (Inferno), fixing his mistakes (Purgatorio) and entering an earthly paradise (Paradiso).

There’s something to be said about reading a good book when we're young. Dante and Dickens can help readers avoid the great mistake that Scrooge and all the inhabitants of Dante’s Hell made – loving the wrong thing.


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