Throughout my therapy practice I have written poetry as a way to reflect, grieve, and make sense of deep feelings that can get stirred up for me and my clients during sessions. Poetry Therapy, a term that became popular in the 1960’s, means poetry that is used for healing and personal growth. "Not I, but the poet discovered the unconscious," wrote Freud. Poetry Therapy is used by many professionals in therapy work including expressive and art therapy. Some ways I use poetry with clients is having them write poetry in response to their sessions, their artwork, as an ongoing journal inquiry, and in response to dreams. I keep several journals of poetry responses to my own personal work and to process my work with my clients.
When researching the history and development of Poetry Therapy, The Journal of Poetry Therapy is the richest source of current theory, research and technique. You may want to refer to The National Association for Poetry Therapy or NAPT.
You may have a collection of poems that you refer to when you need to be inspired. Mary Oliver, Rumi, Rainer Maria Rilke, David Whyte, Marget Atwood, Dylan Thomas, Pablo Casals and many more poets help us by making us pause and reflect.
For the last month, I have been living on Denman Island where we have a house surrounded by woods. I have meditating, journal writing, running and writing. I am working on a book about archetypes and a book of poems that I am hoping to publish that speaks to my experience of working with my clients. In this book, some of the topics that I am writing about are autism, domestic violence, depression, trauma, and divorce. If you are interested in learning how to include poetry in your therapy practice, I am going to be offering workshops for therapists. Poetry is a source of healing for me. What is your experience?
The following is a poem that I wrote on resiliency:
When I was younger it always felt like I was missing some inner strength, or some part. Instead of being able to support myself, I would just collapse.
I was part of the school track team taking part in a track meet in Verona.
I was in the lead, coming around a corner, when I collapsed on the ground.
My track coach, in an angry voice asked me why I gave up.
I couldn’t answer her. I just knew that I did not have it in me to finish.
It felt like something in me was broken or missing.
My brother used to tell me that I was the runt of the litter; there wasn’t enough left for me.
And he was the one in the family who liked me.
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