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What Is Poetry Therapy?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Poetry therapy is the utilization of poetry to encourage mental health by helping to achieve personal growth. It's used in a variety of therapeutic settings. Poetry therapy requires a trained facilitator, and the steps involved are usually known as recognition, examination, juxtaposition, and application to self. The process typically involves using a piece of poetry as a catalyst to evoke feelings and emotions. These feelings are then examined during a guided discussion that can include a creative writing component to help the client express his or her emotions.

The poetry therapy process can be useful to clients in a variety of settings, either individually or in a group. It can help clients improve their abilities to express themselves creatively and gain insight into thoughts and emotions for personal growth. Examples of settings where it is used for this purpose include schools, support groups, and nursing homes. Poetry therapy is also used to help clients work through clinical psychological issues for the improvement of mental health in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and psychiatric facilities. The process is usually implemented by a qualified therapist often known as a facilitator who has completed thorough training that includes supervised field experience.

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The process of poetry therapy usually follows a sequence of steps known as recognition, examination, juxtaposition, and application to self. It begins with the selection of a piece of poetry by the therapist, which is usually chosen because it is likely to evoke specific feelings in the clients. During the recognition stage the poem is read aloud by the therapist, and the clients are given the chance to read it silently in order to fully experience the emotions. In examination, these emotions are explored through carefully guided discussion with the therapist and the other clients if in a group setting.

In the next part of the poetry therapy process, juxtaposition, the clients express their feelings and opinions and consider the views of others to arrive a greater understanding. Often there is a creative writing component in which clients can write about their feelings and then share their efforts during the steps of examination and juxtaposition. The final step in the process is known as application to self. This is when clients integrate their new insights and understanding into daily life by changing their behavior. This involves replacing negative reactions to emotions and situations with positive healthy behaviors designed to effectively cope with feelings. An example would be an individual writing about anger instead of lashing out at people around him or her in response to that feeling.

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