Poetry Therapy


i would like to know how you feel about poetry therapy used along with other types of therapy such as, psychoanalytic therapy. i’m doing a school term paper on poetry therapy, i chose this one in regards i myself had poetry therapy years ago. this type of therapy helped me.

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I’ve never heard of ‘poetry therapy’ specifically, but I suppose that it would be an example of expressive journaling where a therapist encourages a patient to express him or herself creatively in a written form. When this is done, the purpose is generally to encourage the patient to make contact with suppressed emotions. Poetry and other forms of written expression are best for verbally oriented people, and it must be kept in mind that not everyone is particularly verbal. Similar goals can be pursued in non-verbal forms too such as sculpture, painting, and similarly spatial physical and digital media. Occupational therapists do this sort of thing all the time, and psychotherapists do it too from time to time, although because therapy tends towards the verbal, more written assignments get made than spatial ones.

The thing to keep in mind here is that this would be an expressive therapy, and expressive therapies are only really good for patients who need help expressing themselves. An ideal patient for an expressive therapy like this might be someone who struggles with self-expression, or assertiveness types of interactions, and who holds back feelings rather than expressing them. It is not particularly something I’d want to recommend to someone who has a problem containing emotions in the first place, such as someone in to see me for an Anger Management problem, unless the task was bounded in some way so as to make it difficult for the disinhibited patient to get out of hand with it. Poetry has nice orderly rules, at least as many people understand it. They tend to be short, for instance, and they tend to rhyme. Such rules might be a comfort for some people as it would provide them boundries and let them get close to uncomfortable feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them. For others, such rules might be confining and that might not be what you want to accomplish with the task (of assigning a poem to be written).

As a therapist considering whether to assign such a ‘homework’, you have to keep in mind what your therapeutic goal is. Is it simply to get someone to generically express themselves better, or is there some specific thing that is being avoided. Will writing poetry ultimately help the patient connect with that avoided thing, or is some other more direct sort of intervention in order ultimately? For instance, if you have someone who is socially phobic, and afraid to ask out a girl on a date, do you want to get them to simply write poems about the emotions they want to experience (which is a step in the right direction of contact with the feared and desired thing), or would it ultimately be better to do graduated exposure therapy with role playing so as to desensitize the phobic person so that he (or she) could actually get up the courage to ask for a date in real life? I bring this up only because you shouldn’t make a fetish out of a therapy technique – they exist to solve problems, they are not solutions in of themselves.

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