Reading as therapy
The idea of bibliotherapy was first documented by the Ancient Greeks, who saw libraries as places for 'healing of the soul'. Bibliotherapy is akin to a pirate pillaging a book for its treasures. The treasures can be seeking solace, inspiration, passion and perspective in life. Great literature does that by offering stories which reflect different models of human thinking, feeling, and being.
These stories capture our imagination sending us on a powerful journey of self-exploration, opening up our minds to new ideas and possibilities. They expand our sense of what it means to be human, teaching us about deep human experience heightening our sense of empathy and compassion, our emotional intelligence. By plumbing the depths of another's experience and gaining an insight into their fears and triumphs, we can be reassured as to what human beings are capable of as we survive our own lives every day, our own mysterious journeys.
This process of using literary fiction, poetry, drama and biography to heal and transform is available to anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.
"We laughed. We discussed intimately what it is to be human in today’s world...I found the whole experience very soul-nurturing" - Award-winning writer Nina Killham
Shared reading circles
Reading circles involve reading aloud from quality literary fiction, short stories, novels or poems, in a small, nurturing group on a regular basis. This is a shared type of reading where members, the readers, are encouraged to participate, but can also just listen if they so desire. To enhance the pleasure and inherent therapeutic value of these groups, the size is comprised of no more than 12 members. Sessions usually run for 1 – 1.5 hours on a weekly basis.
Reading circles are also a space for slow, purposeful reading where words are savoured and readers are free to share immediate memories, ideas or reflections invoked by a particular passage, line or word. A prior understanding or intellectual grasp of literature is not a requirement as the focus is on the personal response.
This type of shared reading has the potential to enhance and deepen a sense ofwellbeing and connectedness by offering cognitive stimulation, self awareness, and meaningful social engagement. These positive effects last long afterwards.
My reading circles are inspired by the work of The Reader Organisation in the UK, who superbly document the many benefits of bibliotherapy to both individuals and communities.
Amongst other events, here is an example of a shared reading circle I hosted at Melbourne Central’s Little Library. Book a session for your community group, work place or aged care facility or just get in touch to discuss the needs of your group and receive a cost estimate.
"I received an individual session of bibliotherapy as a gift. It was the most exciting gift I've ever had!" - Aneita, Canada
As Somerset Maugham declared, "The important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you". Whether it be seeking solace after loss, feeling mid-life angst, or even a desire to reawaken a love of reading for pleasure, a private one-hour consultation of literary counselling is offered. During the session, your literary tastes and habits are explored and considered along with your own personal set of life needs. Thereafter, a personally curated list of works of creative fiction and poetry is composed, selected for their capacity to imbue therapeutic benefit.