By Becca Baitel
Blending together elements of history, psychology, and literature, FUA-AUF’s Bibliotherapy course provides an enjoyable way to deeper understand mental processes by creating connections from books to one’s own personal experiences. Bibliotherapy’s origins date back to Ancient Greece, where libraries were once so highly-esteemed that they were believed to possess unique healing powers for its visitors. Interestingly, while books have been replaced by more efficient sources of technology, according to current Bibliotherapy instructor, Piera Battista, they were “once considered elements of extreme preciousness, consumed only by a few privileged people.” Bibliotherapy is one of many health-centric classes, including Yoga, Meditation, and Health in the Mediterranean, increasing in popularity at the university. FUA-AUF is taking great strides to promote mental, physical, and social wellness in their curriculum through experiential field learning trips, forging close relationships between students, the university, and the Florentine community.
While reading is embedded in school curriculums starting in grade school, it is rarely presented as an outlet for pleasure. Rather than reading solely for the purpose of an assignment, Bibliotherapy validates to readers that no one is really ever alone in their struggles and takes a more creative approach. When students interact with characters and story plots that relate to something prominent in their everyday life, that connection leads to widespread acceptance and can jumpstart their healing process. The course included a trip to La Piccola Farmacia Lettura, a bibliotherapy-focused bookstore on the outskirts of the city with an emphasis on “books that cure the soul.” The store is uniquely organized by emotion rather than genre, displaying different colored sections for each feeling and making for a personalized experience. Upon arrival, students took a short quiz which showed them which their most dominant emotion was currently. With a variety of genres, including fiction, poetry, and self-help books, students were then given free time to locate and read the books which corresponded with their quiz results/emotions. Students greatly appreciated the time devoted to the self-exploration of their feelings through literature, especially amidst their hectic schedules.
Classes like FUA-AUF’s Bibliotherapy course are the driving force behind conversations surrounding the way we deal with and resolve mental health struggles. By centering conversations and lessons around student mental and physical health and wellness, FUA-AUF’s classes are encouraging students to lead more well-rounded healthy lives overall.