Does it actually work?
A 45-minute bibliotherapy session at The Center for Fiction is priced at $150 -- a bit less than the standard $200-300 NYC therapy session (and you only have to show up once for a full year’s prescription).
Tomassi agrees that in many circumstances, psychiatry is a fundamental, necessary resource. But she operates her practice around the notion that great literature, in certain cases, can make us feel more understood than all of New York’s Yale-educated therapists combined. “There are several studies that go so far as to suggest that when we read, our breathing patterns change. Our bodies begin to slow themselves -- to relax,” Tomassi says. She believes that in a city that rarely finds the time to slow down, it’s important to find some sort of pause, if briefly.
Books offer us permission to slow down a little -- they provide us with some good company when the whole city feels hostile. And while literature doesn't replace the need for a trained medical professional in all cases, it is a way to combat a little bit of the stress that New York so effectively cultivates -- and that is precisely Tomassi’s intention. If nothing else, a year of prescribed reading will certainly make the L train that much more bearable.