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How are Ramses II, the Koran, Books, & Psychiatry Connected?

June 18 2021
Image by George Hodan
Image by George Hodan

While perusing our online catalogue, you may have come across our bibliotherapy kits and wondered what the heck those are.

What is bibliotherapy?

Bibliotherapy (aka therapeutic storytelling) is, as its name suggests, a form of therapy where you use reading materials to help with the healing process. It may sound like a modern pseudo-science health fad, but it’s actually a very ancient practice, with modern studies finding that there is great merit to it its efficacy.

The act of reading has been connected with human health at least as far back as the time of Ramses II in the early 1200s BCE, whose palace library entrance held the world’s oldest-known library motto: “The house of healing for the soul” (ψῡχῆς ἰατρεῖον). In 1272 Cairo, reading the Koran was a prescribed medical treatment at Al-Mansur Hospital. In the mid-1800s, books began being part of treatment at European mental institutions. By the early 1900s, libraries had become an important part of European psychiatric institutions.

When is it used?

Bibliotherapy is most commonly used regarding issues related to mental health. When professionals use it, it’s not usually used on its own, but rather as a way to complement and enhance other treatments. That being said, unlike most medical practices, bibliotherapy is something that is safe and healthy to do on your own. If it’s something you think you might benefit from and you don’t have a health professional to prescribe it to you as a treatment, you don’t need a professional to recommend it or guide you through it. And because of the way it works, you can use it even if you don’t have that issue but want to learn more about it.

How does it work?

At its core, bibliotherapy is exactly what it sounds like: you get prescribed books to read. If you are engaging in bibliotherapy regarding an issue you have, it works as a reminder that you are not alone in facing this issue and provides you with an outlet for working through problems. Regardless of whether you personally have the issue you are reading about, reading, especially books that take you out of your comfort zone and/or have a different viewpoint, has also been demonstrated to help increase empathy, tolerance for others, and interpersonal skills.

What kits does the library have?

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