Writing therapy involves the expression of thoughts and feelings on paper
as a means to promote health and well-being through the powers of the
arts to heal.
There are a number
of different approaches to writing therapy. Journal therapy focuses on
expressing emotions, and delving into one's internal life so that, by
putting a problem or concern into words, people can work out a solution.
In poetry therapy, a person may be asked to create original verse, prose
or other form of visible language that draws upon their experiences and
emotions, or to write in response to an encounter with someone else's
poems as a way to express their thoughts and feelings.
Poetry therapy and bibliotherapy are terms used synonymously to describe
the intentional use of written language for healing and personal growth.
The term biblio means books and, by extension, literature. Therapy
is derived from the Greek word therapeia meaning to serve or
help toward wellness. Basically then, bibliotherapy is the use of
written language to promote health.
By encouraging people to put difficult emotions and memories into words,
writing therapy provides therapeutic release. After a session of writing
therapy, many people say they feel calmer and more in control.
The goals of writing
1. Develop accuracy and understanding in perceiving self and others
2. Enhance creativity, self-expression, and self-esteem
3. Strengthen interpersonal and communication skills
4. Ventilate overpowering emotions and release tension
5. Find new meaning through new ideas, insights, and information
6. Facilitate change
7. Increase coping skills and adaptive functions
A typical session
is an interactive process comprised of three components: the literature,
the trained facilitator, and the client(s). A trained biblio/poetry therapist
selects a poem or other form of written or spoken media to serve as a
catalyst and evoke feeling responses for discussion. The interactive process
helps the individual to develop on emotional, cognitive, and social levels.
The focus is on the person's response to the literature, always keeping
in mind the psychological health and well-being of the client.
The poetry therapist creates a gentle, non-threatening atmosphere where
people feel safe and are invited to share openly and honestly what comes
up for them. The facilitator chooses literature that will be effective
therapeutically, that is, life-affirming. This requires training, extensive
knowledge of multi-media literature, and clinical skills.
The value of the interaction lies in the four-fold process:
1. Recognition - The participants recognize or identify with some
aspect of the selected material.
2. Examination - The participants explore specific details of the
material with the assistance of the bibliotherapist.
3. Juxtaposition - Using contrasts and comparisons to look at an
experience from varying points of view to provide enhanced awareness that
may become the basis for wise choices in attitude and behavior.
4. Application to Self - In making a connection between him or
her self and the literature, and by applying the new knowledge in the
real world, a participant can experience increased strength and self-understanding
as well as enhanced interpersonal relationships.
of reading and writing, encouraged by the sensitive guidance of professionals
trained in bibliotherapy, acts as a significant catalyst for self-integration.
published by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological
Association, and others show that writing therapy is effective assistance
for myriad situations, personality types, cognitive capacities and literacy
levels. Some scientists believe that the release offered by writing affects
the body's physical capacity to withstand stress and to fight off stress-related
infection and disease. Writing therapy has also been shown to have a positive
impact on heart rate and blood pressure.
Writing therapy has been used effectively to help people with a number
of physical and emotional problems, including life-threatening illnesses
such as HIV and cancer; chronic conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid
arthritis; drug and alcohol addictions including smoking; eating disorders;
and trauma. It has been shown to be beneficial for combating low self-esteem,
depression, and stress-related ailments. Additionally, writing is a helpful
coping tool for grief and loss, spirit-mending, caregiver support, and
for anyone who is seeking cathartic relief, self-regulation, self-knowledge
or guidance through transition. Words heal.