Uses of poetry therapy

Direct uses of poetry therapy include bringing about self-understanding, side-stepping defence mechanisms of repression and suppression, reframing situations and providing a chance to connect with reality in a safe manner (Olson-Mcbride & Page, 2006). Others have found poetry to have helped them in a more complex way, by being “an exceptional aid in helping develop a truly personal voice which allows for self-understanding and authentic communication within the therapeutic endeavor, and beyond” (Kempler, 2003, p. 218). The symbolic imagery and metaphors used to form poems can help the author access unconscious material and frame it using language. This process enables conversations between groups, between individuals and therapists and between authors and society- shifting the focus from an “intra-personal to an inter-personal dialogue” (Kempler, 2003, p. 219). Poetry also gives freedom of expression to the author as it doesn’t necessarily follow any grammatical rules- literacy and spelling can take a backseat and open up the modality for those with different cultural backgrounds and low literacy levels. It allows for the author to understand things for themselves, while creating their own “unique meaning system”  (Mazza, 2017, p. 10), saving them from psychoanalysis or feedback that might cloud perception of their imagination.

Poems have several line breaks and these “help the reader find the natural flow of poetry based on voice” (Carroll, 2005, p. 161). There is an emphasis on breathing and feeling the words as they flow in and out. This can be experienced while reading poems or performing them. Performing poetry gives it another dimension; that of embodiment and expression using our bodies to pass a message to the world and ourselves. It has the potential to reduce inhibition, which has a positive effect on increasing confidence and challenging stereotypes.

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