Probably one of the most common reports from people who write journals is that the act of putting thought and feelings on paper helps give useful emotional and mental clarity. However, there is scientific evidence that the relief that comes from writing things down is more than just psychological. Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher in Texas, has conducted studies that show that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over three or four days, their immune system functioning increases. Dr. Pennebaker's studies indicate that the release offered by writing has a direct impact on the body's capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.
Therapists who utilize journal writing in a session often begin by asking the client to write a short "check-in"paragraph or two on "what's going on"--how the client is feeling, what s/he wants to work on in the session, and what's happening in her/his life that impacts the therapeutic work at hand. This writing is usually shared with the therapist, and an "agenda" for the session is set. The therapist then guides the client through a writing exercise designed to address the therapeutic issues or tasks that the client has brought forward in the check-in or warm-up write. This writing usually takes about 10 minutes,and the remainder of the session is spent with the client and therapist exploring the information revealed in the longer write. The session generally concludes with the therapist offering several suggestions for journal "homework" to be completed between
sessions.Journal therapy is also very effective in groups, and it is common for group members to establish a senseof deep community as writings representing authentic expressions of self are shared.
Journal therapy can also be studied through an independent study program such as that
offered through Kathleen Adams' Center for Journal Therapy or through Dr. Progoff's Dialogue House.
"During the 1990s, Miranda McKearney OBE, Anne Sarrag and Debbie Hicks
worked with librarians to create three small organisations which
explored new solutions to social issues caused by literacy problems.
They felt there was potential for public libraries to play a bigger role
in helping people become confident readers. The organisations were
called Well Worth Reading, LaunchPad and The Reading Partnership."
"Around Miranda's kitchen table they brainstormed new approaches and started new programmes like the Summer Reading Challenge.
The work grew hugely, and the three small organisations were merged to
form a charity called The Reading Agency, launched at the British
Library in 2002."
A bibliotherapy session is a read-aloud session: a facilitator reads a
selection of literary materials that correspond with a particular issue
that an individual or a group have to address through the session. The
reading is followed by a guided group discussion. During the discussion,
the participants are encouraged to ask questions and share their
stories relevant to issues and situations discussed. The session often
involves a variety of writing exercises that provide the participants
with another powerful way of expressing themselves.
How are books selected for bibliotherapy sessions?
Books used can be fiction (short stories, excerpts from novels),
poetry or non-fiction (biography, memoirs, collections of true stories,
self-help books, etc.). In bibliotherapy, the value of literature
depends strictly on its capacity to encourage a therapeutic response
from the participants.
In 2011-2012, Natalia Tukhareli delivered workshops for the clients of St. John’s Compassionate Mission in Toronto.
The biliotherapy sessions address he following topics:
- Breaking isolation and building connections with ourselves, family,
community and nature
- Enhancing positive thinking, gratitude and appreciation for Life
- Being a Parent: Joys and Challenges.
Canadian Center for Abuse Awareness (CCAA), Toronto, Ontario www.ccfaa.com
In November 2011, Natalia Tukhareli developed a bibliotherapy
booklist on abuse for the Canadian Centre of Abuse Awareness (CCAA). The
list of recommended titles on sexual abuse included resources for young
children, teens, adults and practitioners. www.ccfaa.com/?page_id=1799
In 2010, Natalia Tukhareli developed an innovative Bibliotherapy Program on HIV/AIDS and successfully implemented this program in Johannesburg, South Africa as a part of the Nkosi’s Haven Library project.
Phillips said the global increase in blood flow during close reading
suggests that "paying attention to literary texts requires the
coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions." Blood flow also
increased during pleasure reading, but in different areas of the brain.
Phillips suggested that each style of reading may create distinct
patterns in the brain that are "far more complex than just work and
After reviewing early scans, neuroscientist Bob Dougherty, research
director of CNI, said he was impressed by "how the right patterns of ink
on a page can create vivid mental imagery and instill powerful
With the field of literary neuroscience in its infancy, Phillips said
this project is helping to demonstrate the potential that
neuroscientific tools have to "give us a bigger, richer picture of how
our minds engage with art – or, in our case, of the complex experience
we know as literary reading."
There are so many types of autobiographic writing that you can waste
time in confusion about which kind is appropriate for your story. Here
you will find definitions of each and published examples. You can read
examples of the type of writing you wish to do. Read them for
inspiration and think about their structure as you read. Notice what the
writer does that would work for you, try to identify what devices the
author employs that you don’t yet know how to use, but also notice where
you lose interest and try to figure out why.
A Full Autobiography covers an entire life from birth to the present.
There are three good reasons for choosing this traditional form.
You are writing for yourself to discover the meaning of your life by setting it down.
You are writing your life story for your offspring so that they can know you as a person not just as a parent or grandparent.
You are famous, distinguished in your field, or infamous. You know
people are interested in the story of your entire life and that a full
autobiography by you would be published.
If your goal is publication but you are not famous, the full autobiography is probably not your best choice. Examples are:
A MEMOIR puts a frame onto life by limiting what is included.
A memoir may be publishable if it focuses on a topic of significant
popular interest or if it is so well written that it can be considered
The limiting frame may be determined by a particular period in your
life, for example, your childhood, your adolescence, or your fabulous
Willie Morris’ New York Days is restricted to the period when he was editor of Harper’s.
Lillian Hellman’s Scoundrel Time is about the McCarthy era of the 1950s.
The COMING OF AGE MEMOIR, restricted to childhood, has become a distinct literary genre in its own right.
Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina
is a somewhat fictionalized coming of age memoir. You don’t need to be
“a name” to publish this literary genre, but the writing has to be
superb. MEMOIRS OF PLACE from a multitude of regional voices
have become very popular in contemporary American literature. A
memoir’s frame may also be limited by a particular setting as with:
The ECOLOGICAL MEMOIR combines a sense of place with
a spiritual theme which dissolves distinctions between the self and the
earth. The American tradition descends from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
The new Ecological Memoir carries the sense that there is a place on
the planet which is right for each person and expresses one’s true self.
Like Georgia O’Keeffe whose style as a painter was tied to the New
Mexican landscape, some memoirists are transplants who find their voice
only when they find their spot. Memoirist Terry Tempest Williams,
though, realizes she was born to the land she loves. In Refuge, an Unnatural History of Family and Place,
Tempest Williams writes that she does not crave travel because she
finds greater depths to explore within Salt Lake City, where her Mormon
family has lived and died for a hundred and fifty years.
A memoir can also be limited by the author’s RELATIONSHIP WITH AN INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP. Colette’s Sido is about the author’s relationship with her beloved mother. Simone de Beauvoir’s Adieux, A Farewell to Sartreis about her affair and friendship with the Existentialist philosopher. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feastis
restricted by place (Paris), period (1920’s-30’s ), and his social
relationships with an interrelated group of American expatriate artists
The PORTRAIT closely resembles a thematic memoir
which focuses on a relationship, except that the portrait emphasizes the
subject rather than the author. In Patrick O’Higgins’ Madame: An Intimate Biography of Helena Rubinstein,
O’Higgins is present as protégé to the cosmetics queen, but his
concentration is on Rubinstein’s life rather than his own. Geoffrey
Wolff’s, The Duke of Deception,
is simultaneously a coming of age memoir and a portrait of his father, a
con artist par excellence. Depending on popular interest in your
subject or your ability to tell the story of a fascinating character,
portraits may be publishable.
Chip Jacobs’ book, Wheeler-Dealer: The Rip-Roaring Adventures of my Uncle Gordon, a Quadriplegic in HOLLYWOOD
is an example of a Portrait Memoir. Chip’s book is a biography of his
outrageous Uncle Gordon and journalist Jacobs’ unearthing of family
secrets despite his mother’s opposition.
In addition, memoirs may be limited by A PARTICULAR THEME.
There are as many possible thematic topics for narrative memoirs as for
novels, and new thematic memoirs bear close resemblance to contemporary
Catana Tully’s book, Split at the Root,
is an examples of a Thematic Memoir. Her book explores the theme of
cross cultural adoption. It is also an example of the most difficult
type of memoir writing to pull off, for it uses the “transparency”
technique that interweaves several story lines into one. Tully’s search
for the secret of her “private adoption” forms the frame of a detective
story upon which two other story lines are woven.
Some thematic areas have a tradition of their own: VOCATIONAL and OCCUPATIONAL memoirs
are among the oldest types of thematic memoir. The vocational memoir
may cover the subject’s entire life, but is limited to those parts which
relate the recognition and fulfillment of a particular “calling.”
The RELIGIOUS AUTOBIOGRAPHY is used as a means of founding or promoting a particular faith. The Bible itself could be considered a collection of religious autobiographies. Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi also fulfills the didactic function of most religious memoirs.
A NEW SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY has also emerged which
is written as self discovery rather than edification, each person
finding a different spiritual myth or meaning, which cannot be a model
for anyone else except as the demonstration of process. The spiritual
journey turns out to be the most individual dimension of a life.
Another traditional theme common to thematic memoirs is ADVENTURE, as in THRILLING MEMOIRS, WAR STORIES and NEAR DEATH
encounters. The Thrilling Memoir requires the dramatic structure of a
struggle and a physical crisis, climax and resolution. While many such
stories are authentic, be aware that those which appear in male appeal
Soldier of Fortune magazines and female appeal True Confession
periodicals are not real memoirs at all, but fictional pieces written in
the first person, or “pseudo memoirs.”
The HISTORICAL MEMOIR is the one form of thematic
autobiographic writing in which the importance of factual accuracy and
chronology supersedes the creative imperatives of inner truth. Heavily
influenced by journalism and reportage, historical memoirs are often
authenticated by quotes from newspapers, letters and other verifiable,
external records. The historical memoir is written not only to tell the
subject’s own story, but also to document the story of his or her times.
Yet even with the most conscious commitment to objectivity the
historical memoir is really a settling of accounts, a selective
statement of how the author wishes to be remembered in history. Examples
It is possible for people who are not architects of history to
publish historical memoirs if they have been close observers of the
events of their times, for example Holocaust survivors or Vietnam vets,
although the market is now glutted with these. It is also possible to
write historical memoir as New Autobiography using fictional devices.
Melisssa Fay Greene’s first hand historic account of racial changes in
the South, Praying for Sheetrock, focuses on a few ordinary citizens in a small town and reads like a novel. DEALING WITH ADVERSITY is in some
ways the theme of all narrative autobiography, but there is a
particularly rich tradition about struggles with a particular medical or
physical malady, such as blindness, cancer, or paralysis. Originally
this type nearly always took the form of the INSPIRATIONAL, a struggle against odds in which the courage of the subject brings about a triumph, at least of spirit, in the end.
More recently, a new LITERATURE OF ADVERSITY has
evolved which does not depend upon the “final triumph,” but which
derives its value from the depth and frankness of its discussion. Nancy
Mairs, an author who has multiple sclerosis and has written of it in
several memoirs, said in an interview that the cliched story of
overcoming illness does a disservice to people with disabilities It sets
up the belief that if one just wants to get up and walk badly enough
they should be able to. This message does “a real injustice to people
with disabilities and to the general population in making them not
experience genuine human suffering and loss and discovering the
dimensions of those experiences that are transcendent.” Examples
PSYCHOLOGICAL ILLNESS is another publishable adversity theme in New Autobiography. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden offers a firsthand view of schizophrenia, Barbara Gordon’s I’m Dancing as Fast as I Candramatizes the horror of one woman’s addiction to tranquilizers, William Styron’s Darkness Visiblerecounts his bout with suicidal depression, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation: A Memoir also explores that illness, and Donna Williams’ extraordinary autobiography Nobody, Nowhereallows
us inside the mind of the autistic child for the first time,
contributing to the understanding of autism as no outside psychological
study ever could.
The theme of the INDIVIDUAL IN OPPOSITION TO SOCIETY,
pervasive in the American novel,, also fuels a broad range of memoirs,
including a rich body of gay and lesbian coming out stories, the
autobiographic works of Beat poets such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti and
Jack Kerouac, and a burgeoning, diverse literature which explores social
themes of race, class, sex, ethnic or age discrimination. Recently,
Mark Matousek’s Sex Death Enlightenment: A True Story
combined the bravado of this type of memoir — memorializing his
decadent life as a male hustler and member of Andy Warhol’s Factory —
with the redemptive ending of the confession.
The spiritual confession begun by Augustine follows a clear plan: the
recounting of one’s sins followed by the mending of one’s ways. The key
is to detail for a reader’s enjoyment all your naughtiness (this should
be the bulk of the work) and then tell why you aren’t that way anymore.
There are many secular examples of the form, among them:
The SPIRITUAL QUEST, unlike the spiritual
Confession, does not depend upon the sinner redeemed formula. It has the
episodic structure of a journey in search of spiritual perfection. John
Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress is the earliest example. Carlos Casteneda’s The Teachings of Don Juancould be considered a pop example of the spiritual quest. Reminiscence, Reflection, Meditation and Reverie
proceed by free association rather than chronology. They tend to be the
least commercial type of autobiographic writing because they don’t offer
the reader a story and characters to hold onto. Carl Jung’s
autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections
is a reverie that concentrates on the inner life of the subconscious
rather than the outer life of events. His work demonstrates that within
the inner world one can find specific images and details — necessary to
keep such writing from becoming too abstract.
The PERSONAL ESSAY is undergoing a contemporary renaissance, nurtured by magazines such as Harper’s, The New Yorker, and the “His” and “Hers” sections of the New York Times Magazine. In his introduction the fine anthology he edited, The Art of the Personal Essay,Phillip
Lopate traces the form back to Seneca and Plutarch, but attributes the
source of its democratic informality to Michel de Montaigne, who wrote,
“Every man has within himself the entire human condition.”
The new personal essay is nothing like those little torture chambers
of rhetoric and logical argument you had to write in English I. Freed by
public indifference, it has evolved into a meditation which explores
how individual minds work, how they move by free association through
thoughts and feelings to small, often subtle, realizations. Structurally
it is the most accepting form, allowing digressions, contradictions,
mental journeys and apparent shapelessness. Like poetry, it depends less
on story than on motif and asks for precision and economy of language,
though in a conversational, intimate style. Unlike autobiographic
narrative, the personal essay need not have the dramatic shape of a
story. According to Lopate, it is structured by the progression toward
personal truth, “the ‘plot’ of a personal essay, its drama, its
suspense, consists in watching how far the essayist can drop past his or
her psychic defenses toward deeper levels of honesty.”
An important key in writing the personal essay is to choose a very
narrow frame, a limited, small subject which you enlarge by exploring in
detail and depth. The personal essay is a tiny aspect of a life under a
microscope. Outstanding examples of collections of personal essays are:
The personal essay is short enough to be manageable even by those
with limited time, and it can be published in a large variety of
periodicals, Those who distinguish themselves by consistently publishing
essays in respected periodicals may overcome publishers’ reluctance to
publish books of collected essays.
The TRAVELOGUE, the memoir of a journey can be a
particularly entertaining form of autobiographic writing if it doesn’t
fall into simply describing “what you saw” in dutiful chronological
order. The form is at least as old as Margery Kemp’s thirteenth century
“as told to” account of her travels through England as an eccentric
single older woman. In our time Paul Theroux’ The Great Railway Bazaar,The Old Patagonian Express and The Iron Roosterand Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence
demonstrate that it is not so much the journey or place, but the
character, feelings and reactions of the author which hold our interest.
Somewhat irascible narrators seem to write the most compelling travel
memoirs, probably because their exacting personalities put them into
constant conflict with their foreign surroundings.
The AUTOBIOGRAPHIC SHORT STORY as it appears in
magazines is often indistinguishable from first person short fiction. In
writing an autobiographic short story you take a single, small turning
point in your life as the epiphany of the story. Sometimes episodes in
your life may suggest a particular literary style or genre, so there can
be autobiographic ghost stories, autobiographic comedies of manners,
autobiographic magic realism. Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories
about his charmed childhood, Dandelion Wine, although memoir, reads like his science fiction.
Autobiographic short stories can be written piecemeal, published
individually in different magazines, and later collected in a book.
Nearly all the stories in Pam Houston’s Cowboys are my Weakness were
first published in women’s or literary magazines as short fiction. Yet
assembled they can be read as the memoir of a woman who keeps finding
herself in relationships with guys “whose favorite song is Desperado.”
An earlier example of this appealing ‘two for one’ form is Christopher
Isherwood’s Berl in Stories.
Each of his autobiographic stories is complete in itself, and together
they make a coherent memoir of Isherwood’s life in Berlin in the late
The AUTOBIOGRAPHIC NOVEL differs from the thematic
memoir in the degree to which it fictionalizes the author’s experiences.
Pat Conroy wrote two autobiographic novels, The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides,
about a boy’s childhood dominated by a father who, like his own, was
overbearing and abusive. In both books names and identifying details are
fictionalized, but the characters have the problems of Conroy’s actual
family members. In The Great Santini the father is a Marine lieutenant, in The Prince of Tides he is a shrimper, but in both novels he instills the same fear in his sons.
The autobiographic novel is a solution for those who have a whopper
of a story to tell, but cannot for various reasons publish it as a
memoir. Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel The Bell Jar about a teenage girl’s nervous breakdown, closely follows the events of Plath’s early life.
In calling her work a novel, even an autobiographic novel, an author
distances herself from the subject matter and tells the reader, “Do not
ask me about this. I have given you what matters in this story in the
most beautiful language I can find. In making it a novel I have assumed a
boundary of protection for myself and others. Do not cross it; do not
pry.” In calling her work a novel, the author is also making a claim to
its artistic merit. In some cases it is easier to publish an
autobiographic novel than a memoir, but the writing must be of higher
literary quality than is required of most memoirs.
TheCOMPLAINT differs from
autobiographic protest literature because the author does not find his
or her oppression in social causes but in the misdeeds of a particular
person. It is a very publishable form of Portrait if the author’s
subject is famous. Examples include:
It is a natural fantasy to imagine getting even with someone by
exposing them in your memoirs, and revenge can fuel great writing, but
for the most part complaints suffer like bad novels from one dimensional
characterizations and an overly simplified Manichean vision of the
The CONCEPTUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY is a twentieth century
innovation, akin to New Journalism, where the author goes out and does
something outrageous or puts himself into an unusual situation in order
to write about the experience. The earliest example may be George
Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and Londonwhere
Orwell intentionally allowed himself to fall into miserable poverty so
he could report how men live on the bottom rung of society. In order to
experience racial discrimination first hand and write Black Like Me,
John Howard Griffin dyed his white skin to make himself appear to be an
African-American. Cameron Crowe pretended to be a high school student
to write Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Nancy Weber put an ad in the Village Voice offering to swap her home, job, friends and lover with another woman in order to write Life Swap.
For a writer who is not well-known, conceptual autobiography may be
the most publishable type if you can come up with a fresh concept, live
through it, and write about it with insight. But such life experiments
can be dangerous, and they are essentially artificial. Sue Estroff, a
social anthropologist, wrote about her attempt to live among the street
“crazies” in Madison, Wisconsin’s flop houses to study their culture.
She wrote a profoundly moving account which demonstrates that how we
treat the mentally ill makes them more crazy, but in the process of
living like them and even taking their medication, she nearly lost her
All the best writers who have tried to become someone else in order
to write about it have learned that you cannot really know another’s
life experience. You can gain insights, you can observe other people’s
reactions to how you appear, but still you are yourself assuming a
costume and a role.
Autobiographic WORKS OF HUMOR range from vanilla
souffles to black bitters. Erma Bombeck wrote autobiographic personal
essays and books about ridiculousness of domestic life such as The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries what am I doing in the Pits?. S.J. Perelman showed the humor in cultural misunderstandings in The Swiss Family Perelman,
about his family’s temporary relocation to Thailand in the 1940’s. Art
Buchwald mixes his practiced wit with painful childhood memories in Leaving Home.
Comedian Rick Reynolds developed a successful one man show, “Only the
Truth is Funny,” based on the professional and personal failures of his
life. It was when he gave up, moved to a small town and wrote only the
truth to please himself that he came up with a work that brought him
success. FAMILY HISTORY or the FAMILY SAGA
is often considered a form of autobiographic narrative because it is one
person’s exploration of self-identity, but it is not “I” writing about
“I.” I have noticed that writers who try to record the stories of
ancestors along with their own life often end up with two works instead
of one. Family histories can fall into the dutiful and often laborious
tracing of the family tree and the telling of disconnected anecdotes,
unless enlivened with fictional devices and the an ever-present
If you wish to publish a work about ancestors, you will have to write
it like a novel with all the devices and drama of fiction. The most
famous published example is Alex Haley’s Roots. DRAMAS and FILM SCRIPTS can be
autobiographic works. Eugene O’Neill’s and Tennessee Williams’ powerful
dramas are based on their experiences, and solo showcases based on a
writer/actor’s own life are currently the rage. Dennis Palumbo wrote the
script of the film My Favorite Yearabout
his initiation into the television business, but autobiographic film
scripts are rare. To fit your story into the structural requirements of a
multi-character play or film demands a distance and objectivity about
your material that few autobiographic writers have or should have.
However, it you chose to try these forms, you’ll find the story
structure guidelines in the previous chapters indespensible. OTHER FORMSof
autobiographic writing include some literature for children or young
adults, personal newspaper or magazine columns such as those by Anna
Quinlen, Ellen Goodman, and Ellen Snortland and personal magazine
articles such as those in Reader’s Digest and Reminisce magazine. ORIGINAL FORMS AND HYBRIDS. The most exciting
examples of New Autobiography are combinations of forms which have never
been tried before. Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate is simultaneously a memoir, a novel and a cookbook. In Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted,
about having been committed to a mental institution, each chapter has
qualities of poetry, the personal essay, and the short story. There are
no transitions between chapters, but altogether the work is like a novel
in that it follows a small group of characters and completes each of
their stories. It also harks back to the historic memoir in that it
includes validating documents, namely photocopies of hospital forms
completed by Kaysen’s psychiatrists and nurses. The book’s combination
of subjective narrative and clinical documentation emphasizes its
thematic conflict, giving two opposing answers to the narrator’s
question – was she or was she not sane? The impersonal nature of the
clinical reports of her mental illness contradict the human intimacy and
sanity of her narrative writing. Having Our Say,
a surprise bestseller adapted as a Broadway play is experimental in
form because two sisters in their 80’s, Sarah Delany and Elizabeth
Delany, collaborated to write one memoir. But perhaps the most original
form of New Autobiography to date is Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.
It is a comic strip in which Jews are mice and Nazis are cats, and, at
the same time, an autobiographic exploration of Spiegelman’s
relationship with his father, who recalls for his son his terrifying
memories of being a hunted by Nazis.
In addition to these recognizable types, there are some important American traditions of autobiographic narrative. Within the AFRICAN-AMERICAN TRADITION
can be found some of our most outstanding examples of autobiography,
memoir and the autobiographical novel. The tradition begins with slave
narratives told to white writers, but freed African-Americans quickly
recognized the need to write their own stories. Early on their quest for
freedom is linked with their quest for literacy. The critic Robert
Stepto traces the primary African-American archetype of the articulate hero, who discovers the links between freedom, struggle and literacy, to the 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. Other examples are:
AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN have created their own
tradition with its own archetypes. Critic Joanne Braxton points out that
articulateness is important for African American female hero, too, and
she identifies two common figures, the sassy female “trickster” and the
“outraged mother” both of whom rely on invective, impertinence, and
ritual invocation for protection. In contrast to the solitary black male
hero, she participates in a collective wisdom of courage, ingenuity and
love handed down from a beloved female figure, often her grandmother.
In almost all examples of African-American women’s autobiography there
is a period of perilous adolescence in which the heroine becomes aware
of gender difference as well as racial prejudice. Often it is
motherhood, no matter how early or difficult, that opens the pathway to
her greater self-awareness and self-respect.
The African-American tradition of female autobiographic writing includes:
I have wondered why it is that in the arena of American autobiography
African-American women’s contribution has been more outstanding than
that of their white sisters. I believe it is because white women,
especially those who were privileged or middle class, had far more to
risk by speaking the truth of their lives. Until recently they have not
been willing to risk that privilege; now they, too, are becoming fierce
with the truth.
The ASIAN AMERICAN TRADITION is
indebted to the African American tradition in recognizing the need to
own anger in order to find an authentic voice. But issues of conditioned
passivity and ingrained respect for parents and one’s heritage are
particular to the Asian-American tradition. Probably because they have
been in the United States longer, Chinese-Americans have made a stronger
contribution to autobiographic writing than other Asian-American groups
The LATINO AMERICAN TRADITION, like
that of other ethnic minorities in the States, is about finding one’s
voice, but with a particular conflict between the narrator’s self
perceived in Spanish versus in English. Richard Rodriguez’ Hunger of Memory, the Education of Richard Rodriguezis
a thematic memoir which explores the conflict between Spanish as the
personal language of home and intimacy versus English a public language
of commerce and achievement. His Days of Obligation: An Argument With my Mexican Fatherparticipates
simultaneously in the Mexican American tradition of autobiographic
writing and in the tradition of gay coming out literature. Sandra
Cisneros’ memoir The House on Mango Street shows the influence of Latin American literature on Latino American memoir writing.
The first generation of JEWISH AMERICAN
autobiographic writers dealt with immigrant experience and the
Holocaust; later generations are dealing with different aspects of
assimilation. Examples include:
The NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITION is so different from
the Euro-American tradition of individuation through written memoir,
that it stands in reproachful contrast to the underlying assumptions of
this book. Native Americans have a strong oral tradition of
autobiographic storytelling which conveys the values of the community
and creates continuity between past and future generations. It is
autobiographic in that it tells wisdom learned from life experience, but
most do not have identified authors; they are the tribe’s stories. I’ve
suggested that to find a story in your life you decide where it begins
and ends. From a Native American perspective, stories have no beginnings
or endings. They are fluid, recycled, and acquire new meaning each time
they are told. They are a sort of Rorschach test where the listener
comes to understand the meaning later through his or her life
In addition to the oral tradition, there are over 600 published works
which are called Native American autobiography, but over three-quarters
of them were written by Caucasian anthropologists who imposed their own
meanings and values on the lives they recorded. This has established a
kind of collaborative tradition of its own which is quite controversial.
Combining both the native oral tradition and the written collaborative
tradition, Greg Sarris wrote a portrait of his grandmother, Mabel McKay, Weaving the Dream.
Mabel, a Pomo Indian medicine woman and basket weaver, could not
understand why her grandson, a professor at UCLA, kept worrying about
finding a theme to tie together all her stories for his book. “Why would
you need to tie them together?” Mabel asked — another example of how
differently Native Americans view autobiography.. Sarris says that he
never did succeed in giving his work conventional thematic unity, but he
did, in writing it, succeed in unifying himself. Born Native American
and Filipino on his father’s side and white and Jewish on his mother’s,
Sarris grew up feeling illegitimate about his identity until, like his
basket weaver grandmother, he was able to make a whole from the
fragments. In order to be true to who he is Sarris had to create a
composite form from at least three pre-existing traditions. In so doing
he also participated in the evolution of the Native American tradition
of autobiographic writing.
Article articulates (funny never made the correlation between those two words before), essentially, fiction as "soft sell" while self-help is "hard sell" when it comes to encouraging behaviour. "I won’t quote more from the Svoboda piece, from Aeon magazine,
which is excellent, but I will say this: she writes about how
neuroscience research indicates that stories have their particular
impact (over nonfictional information that our brains receive) because
of how the brain receives information embedded in a story. Briefly put, a
story activates parts of your brain that would have been activated had
you been going through the events of the story yourself. In other words,
the truths (or lies) embedded in a story become incarnate within us
because they are embedded in a story. This is not a metaphysical
proposition, but a biological one."
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION FOR BIBLIO/POETRY THERAPY
100 AD Soranus, Roman physician, becomes the first
poetry therapist in recorded history, prescribing tragedy for manic
patients and comedy for depressed patients to balance mood 1751 Pennsylvania Hospital becomes the first
incorporated hospital in the US. Mentally ill patients are prescribed
reading and writing treatments, and patient work is published in their
newspaper, The Illuminator 1916 The term “bibliotherapy” first used by Samuel Crothers 1928 Eli Greifer, poet, pharmacist, and lawyer, begins a campaign to show poetry’s healing power 1932 Romanian-born Jacob Moreno introduces group
psychotherapy to The American Psychiatric Association. Moreno founds
psychodrama, and uses the term “psychopoetry” to describe the use of
selected literature in his work 1950’s Group therapy models proliferate, some including theme-appropriate readings to help participants deal with their issues 1959 Eli Greifer facilitates a poetry therapy group
at Cumberland Hospital with supervising psychiatrists Dr. Jack J Leedy
and Dr. Sam Spector 1969 Dr. Leedy joins Ann White, Gilbert Schloss PhD,
and Morris R. Morrison PhD to draft first set of standards for
credentialing in the field of poetry therapy 1970’s Several training institutes spring up,
including the Poetry Therapy Institute founded by Arthur Lerner. Arleen
Hynes, librarian at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington DC,
establishes the Bibliotherapy Roundtable. Morris Morrison founds the
American Academy of Poetry Therapy in Austin, TX. Jennifer Bosveld
creates the Ohio Poetry Therapy Center and Library in Columbus 1976 Rosalie Brown appointed as first Federal Bibliotherapist 1980 Vice President of APT Sherry Reiter calls board
meeting inviting field leaders to discuss creating a nationally
recognized creative arts therapy organization. Group includes Jack Leedy
MD, Morris M Morrison PhD, Akhter Ashen PhD, Arleen M. Hynes, Rosalie
Brown, Art Berger MEd, George L Bell DiMn, Joy Shaman, Anthony
Pietropinto MD, Deborah Sklarew Langosch MSW, Gilbert Schloss PhD,
Sherry Reiter MA.
On May 17, 1980, original board members sign this mission statement: We propose to form a United Federation for the purpose of insuring
Ethics, Standards, Uniform Training Requirements, in the field of
Biblio and Poetry Therapy, and, in addition, to discuss mutual problems
and related professional matters. 1980 APT becomes National Association for Poetry Therapy, a national non-profit organization.
Arleen Hynes becomes steering committee chair and first President of
the future National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy, charged with
being the certifying body for trained poetry therapists 1983 Incorporation of National Association for Biblio/Poetry Therapy (NFBPT) 1999 The Academy of American Poets establishes April as National Poetry Month 2002 National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy
(formerly the NAPT Credentialing Committee) is established as totally
independent of NAPT for purposes of setting and maintaining standards of
training and ethical practice, reviewing applications for initial
training and credentialing upon training completion. NFBPT thus becomes
the only autonomous organization authorized to grant certification or
registration in poetry therapy 2002 NAPT becomes the official, independent
membership organization for poetry therapists, applied poetry
facilitators, and other word arts practitioners, providing information
and publications, support for education, research, and training,
promoting growth of the field, holding an annual conference, and more 2006 NFBPT credential renewal fees become independent of NAPT membership dues 2010 NFBPT requires continuing education training credit for all credential renewals 2012 NFBPT endorses the online Therapeutic Writing Institute as first approved training program in therapeutic writing 2013 Former President of NFBPT, Susan deWardt,
travels to South Korea and establishes Cooperation Agreement for Korean
Poetry Therapy Program between NFBPT and Korean Nazarene University; de
Wardt also visits Finland as invited speaker to European Conference on
Autobiographical Writing and Bibliotherapy at Palmenia Institute,
University of Helsinki 2013 Victoria Field of the UK becomes first international candidate for training as a Mentor/Supervisor 2014 NFBPT becomes International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy (IFBPT) April 2014 IFBPT sponsors first professional
development symposium just prior to NAPT Annual Conference to foster
awareness of ethical practices, professional marketing strategies,
business planning, online teaching, and other issues of growing and
promoting the field
The Association for Poetry Therapy
In 1928, Eli Greifer, an inspired poet who was a pharmacist and
lawyer by profession, began a campaign to show that a poem's didactic
message has healing power. Poetry was Eli's passion, and he gave his
time and energy to this life-long interest. He organized the Village
Arts Center and the Messagists Club on 8th Street in the Village of New
York City, and then he created the "Remedy Rhyme Gallery." He became a
volunteer in order to test his theories. In the 1950's he started a
"poemtherapy" group at Creedmore State Hospital. In 1959, Greifer
facilitated a poetry therapy group at Cumberland Hospital with two
supervising psychiatrists, Dr. Jack J. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector.
Although Greifer died in 1966, this remarkable humanitarian played a key
role in the development of what we now call "Poetry Therapy". He passed
along his love of "poemtherapy" to Dr. Leedy, whose drive and
pioneering spirit led to the creation of the Association for Poetry
While Dr. Leedy continued to explore the therapeutic benefits of
poetry at Cumberland Hospital and the Poetry Therapy Center in New
York, Ann White (co-author with Deborah Grayson of Parents and Other Strangers,
1987) was working with the Nassau County Recreation Department and
created an experimental project that brought the therapeutic benefits of
poetry to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools for special
children. Concurrently, Gil Schloss, Ph.D. (author of Psychopoetry,
1976) was conducting "psychotherapy" sessions with individuals and
groups at the Institute for Sociotherapy in New York. In 1969, they
joined with Dr. Jack Leedy to found the Association for Poetry Therapy.
Morris R. Morrison, Ph.D., poet and educator, (author of Poetry as Therapy,
1986) was a great supporter of the Association and drafted the first
systematic set of standards for certification in the field. This
document was published in the Association of Hospital and Institution Libraries Quarterly in 1973.
Around the country many gifted individuals, who were helping
professionals, were using Poetry Therapy. From the first few months of
poet Joy Shieman's pioneering research in 1962, within a mental health
unit of a hospital in California, her method was termed "thera-poetics."
Authentically and naturally, this right hemisphere of the brain
approach to the healing action of Poetry Therapy attended to what she
has always viewed as a lack within the psychiatric picture -
"realignment of the soul". In 1971, Arthur Lerner, Ph.D., poet and
psychotherapist, was appointed Poet-in-Residence and Poetry Therapist at
a private psychiatric facility, the Calabasas Neuropsychiatric Center
in California. Ruth Lisa Schechter, poet (author of Poetry Therapy: A Therapeutic Tool and Healing Force,
1983), became the first official poetry therapist at Odyssey House, in
New York City, working with addiction clients and victims of rape and
incest in 1971. Librarian Eloise Richardson convinced the Governor of
Maryland to hold a Poetry Therapy Day, sponsored by the state of
Maryland in 1974. Poet and educator Aaron Kramer, Ph.D. opened new
worlds to the deaf and disturbed (see Poetry the Healer, 1973). Poet Art Berger, Ph.D. wrote about poetry as a vehicle for self-discovery for both teachers and youngsters (Poetry the Healer, 1973), and used rock, blues lyrics, and "jazz cinquains" to elicit writing from children. Dr. George Bell (The Self-Discovery Notebook,
1990), a minister from Ohio, was incorporating poetry into his
counseling, and developed "the feedback poem," a technique enabling the
counselor and counselee to understand each other better. Clearly, Poetry
Therapy was being used successfully with many different populations.
The 1970's also saw the development of several groups or training institutes. Arthur Lerner, Ph.D., RPT (Poetry in the Therapeutic Experience, 1976) founded the Poetry Therapy Institute on the west coast. Arleen Hynes (co-author of Bibliotherapy - The Interactive Process: A Handbook,
1986), librarian at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, founded
the Bibliotherapy Roundtable. Morris Morrison founded the American
Academy of Poetry Therapy in Austin, Texas. Jennifer Groce Bosveld
(author of Topics for Getting in Touch, 1982) created the Ohio Poetry Therapy Center and Library in Columbus, Ohio.
Poetry Therapy may be traced back to primitive man, who used religious
rites in which shamans and witchdoctors chanted poetry for the
well-being of the tribe or individual.
As far back as the fourth millennium B.C.E. in ancient Egypt, words
were written on papyrus and then dissolved into a solution so that the
words could be physically ingested by the patient to take effect.
The Greeks are credited as being one of the earliest people to conceive
the importance of words and feelings to both poetry and healing. Thus, it is not surprising that Apollo was the dual god of poetry and medicine, since medicine and the arts were entwined.
However, the first Poetry Therapist on record was a Roman physician
Soranus(98-138 AD), who in the first century A.D., prescribed tragedy
for his manic patients and comedy for those who were depressed.
For many centuries the link between poetry and medicine remained obscure.
As far back as 1751, Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the
United States, employed many ancillary treatments for their mental
patients, including reading, writing and publishing of their writings. However, it was Dr. Benjamin Rush, called the "Father of American Psychiatry", who was the first American to introduce music and poetry as a form of therapy in the early 1800’s. Poemwriting became an activity of the patients, who published their work in The Illuminator, the hospital’s newspaper.
In 1928, Eli Greifer, an inspired poet and lawyer and pharmacist by
profession, began a campaign to show the healing power of poetry. Griefer offered poetic prescriptions to people filling their drug prescriptions. Griefer believed that memorization of poems was useful for a process of healing he called ‘psychosurgery.’ In the 1950's Griefer started a "poemtherapy" group at Creedmoor State Hospital in New York, where he volunteered his time.
By 1959, Greifer expanded his poetry therapy group to Cumberland
Hospital where he collaborated with two supervising psychiatrists, Dr.
Jack L. Leedy and Dr. Sam Spector. The overwhelming success of
Griefer’s poetry therapy groups prompted Griefer to write Principles of Poetry Therapy in 1963.
Although Griefer died in 1966, he played a key role in the development
of what we now call "Poetry Therapy,” and is credited for giving poetry
therapy its name.
Dr. Jack. L. Leedy continued Griefer’s work and published Poetry Therapy: The Use of Poetry in the Treatment of Emotional Disorder in 1969.
Leedy’s book, which includes essays by many of the early pioneers in
the field, is considered the first definitive book on poetry therapy. About this time, more and more professionals in the medical field began to use poetry integrated with group process.
While Dr. Leedy continued his work at Cumberland Hospital, “Ann White
[worked] with the Nassau County Recreation Department and developed an
experimental project that brought the therapeutic benefits of poetry to
hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and schools for special children.
At the same time, Gilbert Schloss PhD conducted psychotherapy sessions
with individuals and groups at the Institute for Sociotherapy in New
York. In 1969, Leedy, White and Schloss collaborated to create the Association for Poetry Therapy (APT). Shortly thereafter, the APT developed a set of standards for certification in the field of poetry therapy.
In the early 1970’s, many medical professionals developed training institutes for poetry therapy.
Among them was Arthur Lerner, Ph.D. of Los Angeles who founded the
Poetry Therapy Institute in the 1970’s on the west coast and in 1978
authored Poetry in the Therapeutic Experience.
Arleen Hynes, a librarian at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington
D.C. established the Bibliotherapy Roundtable and Morris Morrison
founded the American Academy of Poetry Therapy in Austin, Texas.
While each institute conferred its own training certificates, uniform
requirements for poetry therapists had not been established.
Consequently, in 1980, a meeting was called to bring together those
active in the field working all over the country to formulate guidelines
for training and certification in poetry therapy.
Those in attendance unanimously decided the APT would become the
National Association for Poetry Therapy, a national non-profit
They also developed the National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy
whose intended purpose was realized in 2002, when it became the
certifying body for trained poetry therapists. NAPT is now the official membership organization representing poetry therapists. How Does Poetry Therapy Work?
Poetry therapy group facilitators use many different kinds of media and
exercises to aid their clients in overcoming their problems. The
different kinds of activities facilitators employ can be broken down
into three main components:
1) the receptive/prescriptive component involving the introduction of
literature into therapy, 2) the expressive/creative component involving
the use of client writing in therapy, and 3) the symbolic/ceremonial
component involving the use of metaphors, rituals, and storytelling.
All three components “have the potential to address the cognitive,
affective and behavioral domains of human experience” and can be collectively used to develop an effective poetry therapy seminar or session.
The receptive prescriptive component typically involves reading a
pre-existing poem to an individual or group and inviting reactions for
discussion. The poem introduced to the group should be connected with
the pre-determined theme of the session or connected with the dialogue
or content of the session. The poem should serve as a vehicle for group members to talk about ideals, goals and emotions.
The discussion following the poem should be focused on what the poem
means to the reader and whether there was is any line or overall theme
of the poem that strikes the reader as their own. If the poem is to be read aloud to the group, copies should be distributed to group members for visual reference.
The selection of the proper poem or song is essential to effective poetry therapy.
Poetry therapists dealing with young adults often prefer to use popular
song lyrics or an audio version of a song to elicit reactions from the
Open-ended songs and poems can assist the client with self-awareness.
Encouraging clients to bring their own poems and songs they found to be
helpful allows group members to share their feelings with the group.
Facilitators can ask clients about particular works they enjoyed or
identified with in order to provide the facilitator with “fruitful
clinical information and self-understanding for the client.”
The expressive/creative component involves the use of creative writing
(poems, stories, diaries) to aid the client in expressing emotion and
gaining a sense of order and concreteness. A variety of creative writing techniques are used, from free-writing exercises to structured poems to sentence stems.
Some poetry therapy scholars suggest journal writing can be a useful
tool for clients to express thoughts and feelings in a personal way.
Keeping a journal allows clients to keep their feelings confidential in
the event they are not ready to share among a group. Journals can
involve creative techniques, from keeping an open record of thoughts to a
highly structured log of events and feelings. Regardless of the
creative techniques employed by the group facilitator, creative writing
exercises should provide some element of control and expressiveness to
The symbolic/ceremonial component involves the use of metaphors,
rituals, and storytelling in therapy. Metaphors both in preexisting
literature and creative writing are often used in therapeutic capacities
to help clients express and understand the connection between internal
conflict and external reality.
In its most basic form, “a metaphor is something that stands for
something else”; metaphors may stand for emotions, actions and beliefs.
Rituals are also often used in poetry therapy groups to meet the
particular needs of clients. For example, writing Christmas cards,
giving a eulogy or writing a letter to a loved one may allow individuals
to “recognize [the present and] past, let go and move on. Using ritual exercises within a poetry therapy group serves dual purposes, “to validate an occurrence and promote change.” Finally, storytelling exercises aid group members in sharing their experiences and receiving support.
Storytelling is an essential part of everyday life; people tell stories
all the time by remembering what they experience and telling other
people what they remember in the form of a story. Human memory itself
Most people find it a lot easier to remember what other people have
said if they tell it as a story and we learn from these stories, as
others learn from the stories we tell. Externalizing problems through narrative storytelling is central to functioning and resolving conflict.What Happens in a Typical Poetry Therapy Session?
According to Sherry Reiter, former president of the National
Association for Poetry Therapy (1993-1995), the typical poetry therapy
session consists of the following steps: 1) the introduction, 2) the
body of the session, and 3) closure. Each step will be discussed
below. However, please note there is not a norm for a poetry therapy
session as exercises and group goals will vary according to group
dynamics and makeup.
Each poetry therapy group session should
being with an introduction where ground-rules are set and where group
members agree to respect confidential issues that may arise. The beginning of a new session arouses many new feelings and anxieties in participants and facilitators alike.
Thus, a warm-up consisting of a word game, word associations, a song,
or other verbal introduction is used to "break the ice" so everyone
Further, warm-activities serve to build confidence in group member’s
abilities, warm the ink in the pen and get group members’ minds
thinking, imaginations working and emotions flowing.
In the body of the session, “the facilitator suggests a creative
writing theme, or uses creative writing that has already been published
to help participants to explore feelings, thoughts, ideas and personal
Facilitators should choose literature that will be effective
therapeutically and should be cautious in introducing works that may be
counterproductive to group process. Although there are no fixed rules
regarding the method for selecting material, there are some basic
Poetry therapists should pay special attention to the content of the material and its relevance to the participants.
The group dynamics, group goals and group members’ individual abilities
should be assessed prior to making a literary selection. Generally,
facilitators should choose poems and songs that elicit emotional
associations with the work and foster connections with fellow group
Each participant should be given a copy of the chosen literature, so
that the words can be taken in visually while being heard; a poem must
be read word for word in order that rhythm, rhyme, assonance and
alliteration be appreciated.
Reading poetry aloud builds group cohesion, and enables patients to
respond to the rhythm of the poem. Subsequent to the reading of the
work, the poetry therapist should engage the group in a discussion
regarding the mood, theme, what the work represents for respective group
members and what connections if any group members made with the work.
The reading and reflection of a literary selection should be a group
interactive process. Four stages can be identified in the interactive
1) Recognition - To begin with, participants must be able to recognize and identify with the selection;
- During this phase, participants explore specific details with the
assistance of a [poetry therapist]. Through questions and open dialogue,
the group explores the significance of their reactions;
- This is a process that explores the significant interplay between
contrasts and comparisons. . . Looking at an experience from a directly
opposite view can provide an awareness that may become the basis for
wise choices in attitude and behavior;
4) Application to the Self
- The [poetry therapist] encourages feelings to emerge and become
integrated with cognitive concepts and deeper self-understanding. . . It
is important for the client to see the connection between the
individual and the literature, and to apply the new knowledge to his/her
own self in the real world.
In working through all four stages, it is important for the poetry
therapist to establish an atmosphere that promotes member participation
so as to build trust and cohesion amongst the group. Group
collaboration maximizes communication abilities and establishes a
beneficial culture of productivity for all participants.
end of the session, the facilitator should provide closure. “Factors
to consider include: the length of the session, the degree of
self-disclosure and group unity, and the degree of tension encountered
during the workshop.”
Closure provides a time for a recapitulation of lessons learned and
experiences shared throughout the session. Further, closure may be used
to highlight the relevance of the workshop to everyday life, summarize
some of the key points, address unanswered questions and conclude in a
positive and mutually affirming way.The Poetry Therapy SeminarMy
goal in creating the poetry therapy seminar guide is to make
therapeutic writing techniques more accessible to able facilitators who
may want to try and lead a poetry therapy seminar. While the National
Association for Poetry Therapy has outlined rigorous standards for
certification and registration in poetry therapy, I believe therapeutic
writing techniques should not solely be left in the hands of
professionals. Keeping diaries, writing stories and reading poems are
activities that almost everyone has done at one point in their life.
The universality of such activities makes therapeutic writing a familiar
and useful tool in helping people overcome their battles.
By creating the Poetry Therapy Seminar Guide: conquering adversity through verse,
I want to give group facilitators the means to run an organized and
effective poetry therapy seminar. Though certain realms of mental
illness should be left to trained professionals, the struggles of
everyday Americans such as depression and substance abuse
can be eased through therapeutic writing and poetry therapy. Thus, my
aim is to create a poetry therapy seminar that can be used for numerous
ailments and across a variety of groups.
The seminar uses a
mixture of: (1) receptive/prescriptive exercises, (2)
expressive/creative exercises and (3) symbolic/ceremonial exercises (as
discussed in the How Does Poetry Therapy Work? section above). The overall format is based on a combination of a seven week/session format developed by Nicholas Mazza,
Ph.D., R.P.T. (Registered Poetry Therapist) and the typical poetry
therapy session as outlined by Sherry Reiter, C.S.W, R.P.T., R.D.T
(Registered Drama Therapist), in her testimony on Capitol Hill regarding
poetry therapy. The seven week format takes into account time limits
of participants and participants’ limited goals. Because session
participants will likely be those who have other commitments (work,
school, etc.), goals will be more limited than sessions attended
strictly by those with serious mental disorders. Mazza suggests that
seven weeks serves as an adequate time frame for brief therapy, but that
“time could be used as a treatment variable consistent with other
My hope is that activities within the seven week program can be
duplicated in the event a facilitator finds them successful (if a
seminar needs to be lengthened) or eliminated in the event they are
counterproductive (if a seminar needs to be shortened).
poetry therapy seminar schedule and activities should be set-up as
follows. The group should convene for one session a week, for seven
weeks. The group facilitator should ideally allow at least 2 hours for
each session. Each session follows an identical structure: the session
begins with 1) a warm-up activity, 2) followed by a reflection activity and 3) concludes with a group activity.
Warm-up activities consist of different forms and methods of creative
writing to get group members’ minds thinking, imaginations working and
emotions flowing. As aforementioned, the beginning of a new poetry
therapy seminar can be a nerve-wracking experience for participants and
facilitators. Warm-up activities reduce anxieties, encourage group
members to participate and bolster confidence. Most warm-up activities
are relatively light and do not require enormous amounts of creativity
to complete. Consequently, group members begin to feel confident in
their abilities. However, as the sessions progress, and group members
become more advanced, warm-up activities get increasingly challenging.
After completing the warm-up activity, the facilitator should lead a
focused discussion about the exercise and what group members should have
learned upon completion of the activity.
Following the warm-up
activity is the reflection activity. Reflection activities employ
pre-existing poems or pop music to be used by the group leader to
facilitate discussion. Poems and songs can elicit emotional connections
with the narrator or with fellow group members through discussion.
Also, songs and poems allow group members to see how emotions may be
expressed from different points of view and likewise how different
points of view can be expressed in identical ways.
The poem/song may be introduced into the session to parallel the
conversations or subject matter of the week or may be introduced to
allow group members to make an emotional identification with the poem.
Copies of the poem should be passed out to each group member for visual
reference. Facilitators may also choose to use two or more poems or
songs for a compare and contrast activity. Following the reading, the
facilitator should lead a discussion focusing on what the poem means to
the readers and which lines strike them as significant. Facilitators
may also ask the group how they would change the poem if they were the
author. The back of the guide contains an appendix containing
discussion questions for reflection activities. A list of the
twenty-two poems most often used in practice and song suggestions for
reflection activities are also included.
Each session concludes
with a group activity. Group activities are comprised of collaborative
poems, whereby the group creates a poem with each member having the
opportunity to contribute lines. The facilitator should provide a theme
for the poem to direct group members’ thinking. Upon completion of the
collaborative poem, the group should create an appropriate title for
the work. Copies of the collaborative poem should be disseminated to
the group and may be used for discussion following the activity or at
the beginning of the next session. The benefits to group activities are
numerous; collaborative poems are useful in creating group
cohesiveness, maximizing communication abilities and interpersonal
skills and establishing a culture of productivity.
Further, collaborative poems give encouragement to group members who at
first may have a hard time completing poems by themselves.
Each week/session is broken into its own color-coded section. Every
session starts with a goal sheet to be used by the facilitator for
outlining goals for the upcoming session. As different groups will have
different goals, the goal sheets are blank. Facilitators are to
determine goals for the group according to the group’s needs and
progress. Though pre-determined goals would make the seminar more user
friendly, they also limit the seminar’s applicability to numerous
ailments. Thus, goals will vary according to the particular disorders
the seminar intends to address.