Poetry in Therapy

David Reinstein,LCSW By David Reinstein,LCSW, 7th Jan 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/2xl36r47/
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Creating brief poems can be an effective tool in the course of psychotherapy.

Haiku Can Facilitate and Document Healing

The ancient and formal poetic form of Haiku can be a profoundly effective tool in psychotherapy, both diagnostically and for goal-setting purposes. Art and healing can facilitate each other nicely.

There is a specific technique in psychotherapy best known as “Narrative Therapy.” This approach assumes that each person feels, reacts, processes experience and lives in a way that is consistent with a particular “Narrative” they have of and for themselves. The technique further posits that this personal narrative can be revised and rewritten with the goal being to composing one which renders life more satisfying and less conflictual.

A derivative of this idea is that of encouraging and helping a client to write only 17 syllables to express some key notion about themselves as place to begin treatment. These 17 syllables, arranged in a traditional format of three lines with 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second and 5 in the third is, of course, a Haiku.

Not everyone can write a good paragraph. Fewer have the skill and discipline to compose a short story and fewer, still, a novel. However, most people who can both thing and write, are able to gather a seemingly simple thought into a deceptively brief 17 syllable formation. The tight limitation of the Haiku form tends to make the task of writing something less intimidating for many people and because it is so contained, finding interpretive meaning in these three brief lines is much easier that finding meaning in a larger piece of writing.

I have found the technique to be useful with children as young as 8 as well as with adults of all ages. As with Narrative Therapy from whence the notion is derived, the Haiku written at the outset of treatment is understood to reflect some essential believe the person has about themselves. As treatment progresses, new Haikus are composed. Each successive three lines reflect both change that has occurred and direction for further movement.

A forty-five year old man suffering from depression since early adolescence, who did not seem to respond at all to medicines prescribed to help him, wrote, in our first session:

Born broken and sad,
Happiness was not for me
I am all darkness.


The meaning is, in no way, obtuse.

Several months later, he was feeling somewhat better and wrote:

Where once doors were locked,
Entry may be possible;
A key has been turned.


Writing Haikus can be made a routine aspect of beginning treatment as well as ending. Often, the exercise in the middle of the process is useful as well. The Haikus can and do serve three different but closely related purposes. 1) The short poem allows many people to work with a creative written form successfully where they had not thought themselves capable of doing so; 2) the Haiku is often a rather precise self-diagnostic statement of where and how the patient/client sees themselves as being, and 3) Each new set of 17 syllables usually directly states or implies goals or directions that the client feels it would be helpful to pursue in treatment.

The Haiku provides both autobiographical reflection for the client while, concurrently, making conscious for both client and therapist, a meaningfully explicit sense of direction too often lacking in the session-by-session reality of many psychotherapies.

The client who wrote the two Haikus above concluded their treatment, successfully, after about five months. In his final session, asked to compose a Haiku (without making any reference to the first two he had written) wrote the following:

I wondered now know
What good might really feel like,
Dawn breaks within me.


The Haiku form is short, specifically constructed and not difficult to master for anyone interested in doing so. Its application as a tool ion the therapeutic process has not been well developed and exploited on behalf of the clients we see. It is time to bring this ancient and honored poetic form into the treatment of those who come to the psychotherapist to get help feeling better and in more control of their lives.

Art and healing are not mutually exclusive. The controlling factors are the willingness of the therapist and client to, together, try something unfamiliar to benefit the one of them who has come for help.

Tags

17 Syllables, Art And Healing, Compose A Haiku, Haiku In Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Short Poem, Treatment

Meet the author

author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
Clinical Social Worker (Psychotherapist), humorist, poet and musician, Born in Boston and a relatively unscathed survivor of the 60's.
Please GOOGLE me at:
David Reinstein, LCSW

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Comments

author avatar Songbird B
7th Jan 2012 (#)

This was incredibly insightful and informative, David! What an interesting article..I have just added you as a link to my recent poem..

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Thank you! I am delighted that you found it pertinent :-}

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author avatar Jules Castillo
7th Jan 2012 (#)

ms songbird is right about it...interesting and informative

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Hello, David: I don't think you ever post a comment on my pages, so I have added my R.S.A. diploma to my name, which might cause you to think that I have something worthwhile to say. Regardless, I found your page to be very interesting. I confess my ignorance of Haiku but I will research on this.

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Hi!
My lack of comments is a time problem... I read your work, though!
Thanks for finding the time to comment on mine...
What do the initials stand for?

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author avatar Buzz
8th Jan 2012 (#)

I always knew that poetry is therapeutic, for it's the language of the soul with curative effects to the body when the former separates from the latter and soars to sing.:)

Thanks for the beautiful article, David.

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
8th Jan 2012 (#)

David: Thanks for asking about R.S.A. (Royal Society of Arts, Diploma in English Language with Credit). When I started working for University of Texas, it was cross-referenced as equivalent to a B.A.).
Good to hear from you. Hope to see you back soon.

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author avatar Sheila Newton
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Great stuff. They use haiku creation in some schools now as an educational tool.

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author avatar 1Faithmorgan
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Very interesting and informative thank you.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
8th Jan 2012 (#)

David, well said my friend!

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Re: R.S.A.
Excuse me for "blowing my own horn", but something came up, I felt put down, so sometimes we need to do this. No ill-feeling anywhere on Wikinut.

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Of course not ...

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Very fascinating stuff, David. Thank you.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
8th Jan 2012 (#)

In regards to your message on pictures, I will contact Wikinut top guys. I myself only use .jpeg images one time I tried different and it didnt work.

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Mark Gordon: Do you mean the way I brought up a video or the assistance given on Steve's page?

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Always .jpeg.... seems to have spontaneously repaired itself! Thanks, Mark.

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author avatar CLH
8th Jan 2012 (#)

Very helpful.

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author avatar Ivyevelyn, R.S.A.
9th Jan 2012 (#)

I am sorry to persist but I wonder if anyone can answer my question. I brought up a video by clicking directly on to a website. I am not sure what sequence I used but was very surprised when the video came straight up. I have only done this on one video and if you will click on:
the following, you will see what I mean:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0RlxpS_zik&feature=related.
Thanks.

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author avatar David Reinstein,LCSW
9th Jan 2012 (#)

Afraid I can't help with this one... I hope someone else can and does!

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author avatar wordcraze
11th Jan 2012 (#)

this was an incredible read, David! to me poetry is therapeutic, being a poet. but reading about a form (haiku) that i am not into, is surely a pleasure.

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