A new ancillary technique, poetry therapy was developed in Greenwich Village, New York, when Eli Greifer, who was a lawyer and a poet, brought together groups of mentally unwell persons and recited poems that he later went on to publish in many books and pamphlets, including “Rhymes for the Wretched,” “Philosophic Duels,” ” “Lyrics for the Lovelorn,” “Poems for What Ails You,and “Psychic Ills and Poem-therapy” (Leedy, 1966). Greifer was assisted in his campaign by a large number of Village poets, including John Rose Gildea and Maxwell Bodenheim . Poems, according to Leedy, may incite patients to constructive action as well as contribute to the evolvement of a life philosophy.
What to expect?
Poetry therapy, is a form of expressive arts therapy, that incorporates the therapeutic employment of poems, narratives, and other spoken or written media to encourage well-being and healing. Therapists might make use of existing literature as part of treatment or promote those in therapy to create their own literary works to express deep-seated emotions. In either case, they are offered a safe, non-judgmental atmosphere where the person in therapy are able to explore their written expressions and associated emotional responses.
How does it work?
Various techniques might be used to ensure group participation and interaction, which includes the recitation by patients of poems from readings or from memory, and the writing of original poems (Harrower, 1974). Discussion of the emotional stirrings evoked by poems and their meaning for the individual serves to bring the individual to greater self-understanding. Different techniques may be involved along with group reading, for instance, if the therapist is dynamically oriented, or if one is acting as a cotherapist to a poetry therapist, the discussion of fantasies and the encouraging of free associations to the poems (Pietropinto, 1975).
When is it used?
The proponents and advocates of poetry therapy contend, with compelling examples, that poetry can be an adjunct to reconstructive therapy; unconscious and repressed feelings are encouraged by the listening to, reading, and writing of poetry. Thus Arsula Mahlendorf feels that “Harmonious emotion, allows catharsis, reaches into the unconscious by rhythm, rhyme, and imagery, creates coherence, order, and insight into hidden relationships, promotes integration between the conscious and unconscious, and thereby increases self-understanding, self-esteem, and mastery.” (Psychiatric News, Oct. 1, 1982). A National Association for Poetry Therapy has depicted together therapists interested in this modality.
The ceremonial/symbolic component involves the use of storytelling, metaphors, and rituals as tools for effecting change. Metaphors, which are essentially symbols, can assist individuals to explain complex emotions and experiences in a concise yet profound manner. Rituals may be particularly effective to help those who have experienced a loss or bereavement, like a divorce or death of a loved one, to address their feelings around that event. It can involve writing and then burning a letter to someone who died suddenly.
Role of therapist:
Poetry therapists undergoes literary as well as clinical training to become competent enough to be able to select literature appropriate and suitable for the healing process. Though any mental health professional can lawfully incorporate elements of poetry therapy into their therapeutic practice, the International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy has developed a credentialing program for the individuals who wants to become certified or registered poetry therapists and practice it thereon.
Wolberg, L.R (2013),The Technique Of Psychotherapy, Fourth Edition., Copyright © 2013, 1988 Lewis R. Wolberg: United States America.
Chavis, G.G. (2011). Poetry and Story therapy: The healing power of creative expression. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.