Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pennebaker's Journaling as therapy

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.

The Reading Agency (history)


2002 - Launched The Reading Agency

2004 - Launched a Reading Partners scheme with publishers to get author events happening in all libraries across the UK. The scheme started with 5 publishers and now involves over 40 partners.

2011 - Launched Reading Groups for Everyone so far more people could benefit from sharing their reading. 2,500 reading groups joined

2013 - A record breaking 810,089 children took part in the 2013 Summer Reading Challenge in libraries whilst another record breaking 35,000 young people and adults took the Six Book Challenge. Launched Reading Well Books on Prescription, and was given £1million by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to develop our Reading Activists programme for disadvantaged young people.

"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."

Read to Connect in Toronto


What does a bibliotherapy session look like?

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.

Hospice Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, September 18, 2012

An interactive bibliotherapy workshop: “Rewards and Challenges of a Hospice Volunteer Role.”

St. John’s Compassionate Mission, Toronto, Ontario www.stjohnsmission.org

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

Nkosis Haven, Johannesburg, South Africa www.nkosishaven.org

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.

fMRI shows effects of reading on brain

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 play."

 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 emotions."

 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."

Monday, July 11, 2016

Center for Autobiographic Studies

 from Tristine Ranier of THE NEW DIARY
 excellent resources for bibliotherapy

Types of Autobiographic Writing

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 literature.
The limiting frame may be determined by a particular period in your life, for example, your childhood, your adolescence, or your fabulous fifties.
  • 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 Sartre is about her affair and friendship with the Existentialist philosopher. Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is restricted by place (Paris), period (1920’s-30’s ), and his social relationships with an interrelated group of American expatriate artists and writers.
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 novels.
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.”
Examples include:
Nurses, oil rig operators, hookers, and Special Education teachers have published OCCUPATIONAL MEMOIRS, as have many others whose line of work is unusual or whose approach is fresh.
In PHILOSOPHIC MEMOIRS a world view is demonstrated through the writer’s own story.
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 include:
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 include:
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 Can dramatizes the horror of one woman’s addiction to tranquilizers, William Styron’s Darkness Visible recounts his bout with suicidal depression, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation: A Memoir also explores that illness, and Donna Williams’ extraordinary autobiography Nobody, Nowhere allows 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 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 Juan could 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 Rooster and 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 1930’s.
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.
The COMPLAINT 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 world.
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 London where 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 own sanity.
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 narrator’s voice.
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 Year about 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 FORMS of 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 to date.
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 Rodriguez is 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 Father participates 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 experience.
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.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Effects of Personal Involvement in Narrative Discourse (Google books)


The Reader (videos)


Reading, as a process, is explored experientially and emotionally rather than academically.

How bibliotherapy works (January 2015)

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."

Debbie McCullis excellent history on bibliotherapy

from Journal of Poetry Therapy (2012)

International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy (timeline)



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

Exercise examples from Stephen Fry's Ode less Travelled


David Miall and Don Kuiken of LRQ online essays literary theory



Thursday, July 07, 2016

Association for Poetry Therapy history


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 Therapy.
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.

Interview with Ella Berthoud and Phillip Davis


Poetry Therapy Roots and guide (link)


What are the Roots of Poetry Therapy?

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.
[17]  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.[18]  The Greeks are credited as being one of the earliest people to conceive the importance of words and feelings to both poetry and healing.[19]  Thus, it is not surprising that Apollo was the dual god of poetry and medicine, since medicine and the arts were entwined.[20]  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.[21]

For many centuries the link between poetry and medicine remained obscure.
[22]  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.[23]  However, it was Dr. Benjamin Rush, called the "Father of American Psychiatry"[24], who was the first American to introduce music and poetry as a form of therapy in the early 1800’s.[25]   Poemwriting became an activity of the patients, who published their work in The Illuminator, the hospital’s newspaper.[26]

In 1928, Eli Greifer, an inspired poet and lawyer and pharmacist by profession, began a campaign to show the healing power of poetry.
[27]  Griefer offered poetic prescriptions to people filling their drug prescriptions.[28]  Griefer believed that memorization of poems was useful for a process of healing he called ‘psychosurgery.’[29]  In the 1950's Griefer started a "poemtherapy" group at Creedmoor State Hospital in New York, where he volunteered his time.[30]  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.[31]  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.[32]

Dr. Jack. L. Leedy continued Griefer’s work and published
Poetry Therapy: The Use of Poetry in the Treatment of Emotional Disorder in 1969.[33]  Leedy’s book, which includes essays by many of the early pioneers in the field, is considered the first definitive book on poetry therapy.[34]  About this time, more and more professionals in the medical field began to use poetry integrated with group process.[35]   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.[36]  At the same time, Gilbert Schloss PhD conducted psychotherapy sessions with individuals and groups at the Institute for Sociotherapy in New York.[37]  In 1969, Leedy, White and Schloss collaborated to create the Association for Poetry Therapy (APT).[38]  Shortly thereafter, the APT developed a set of standards for certification in the field of poetry therapy.[39]

In the early 1970’s, many medical professionals developed training institutes for poetry therapy.
[40]  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.[41]  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.[42]  While each institute conferred its own training certificates, uniform requirements for poetry therapists had not been established.[43]   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.[44]  Those in attendance unanimously decided the APT would become the National Association for Poetry Therapy, a national non-profit association.[45]   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.[46]  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:
[47] 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”[48] 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.
[49]  The poem should serve as a vehicle for group members to talk about ideals, goals and emotions.[50]  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.[51]  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.
[52]  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 group.[53]  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.[54]  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.”[55]

            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.
[56]  A variety of creative writing techniques are used, from free-writing exercises to structured poems to sentence stems.[57]  Some poetry therapy scholars suggest journal writing can be a useful tool for clients to express thoughts and feelings in a personal way.[58]  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 client.[59]

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.
[60]  In its most basic form, “a metaphor is something that stands for something else”; metaphors may stand for emotions, actions and beliefs.[61]  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.[62]  Using ritual exercises within a poetry therapy group serves dual purposes, “to validate an occurrence and promote change.”[63]  Finally, storytelling exercises aid group members in sharing their experiences and receiving support.[64]  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 is story-based.[65]  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.[66]  Externalizing problems through narrative storytelling is central to functioning and resolving conflict.[67] 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.
[68]  The beginning of a new session arouses many new feelings and anxieties in participants and facilitators alike.[69]  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 feels comfortable.[70]  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.[71]

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 issues.”
[72]  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 guidelines.[73]

Poetry therapists should pay special attention to the content of the material and its relevance to the participants.
[74]  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 members.[75]  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.[76]  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.[77]

The reading and reflection of a literary selection should be a group interactive process.  Four stages can be identified in the interactive process:

Recognition - To begin with, participants must be able to recognize and identify with the selection;

Examination - 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;

Juxtaposition - 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;

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.[79]

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.

At the 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.”
[80] 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.[81] The Poetry Therapy Seminar             My 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[82] 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,[83] 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 student responsibilities.”[84]  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).

The 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.
[85]  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.[86]  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.
[87]  Further, collaborative poems give encouragement to group members who at first may have a hard time completing poems by themselves.[88]     

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.