Poetry Therapy

For more than eleven years, award-winning poet Mary Willette Hughes has used the power of poetry to help shape the lives of individuals dealing with alcohol and chemical addiction. Utilizing poetry therapy techniques, Mary guides these individuals as they begin the healing process. View a list of Mary’s past presentations and workshops.

Mary’s second book, Flight on New Wings, contains 50 poems dealing with the author’s experience of addiction in her family. Included with the book is an addendum containing useful information about poetry therapy: what it is, how it works, and its application in group sessions. Each poem also comes with questions that can be used to initiate discussion and help individuals deepen their understanding of addiction.

What is Poetry Therapy?
Poetry therapy is the intentional use of the written, spoken, or sung word for healing, insight and personal growth.

“Promotes growth and healing through language, symbol, and story.” The National Association for Poetry Therapy

According to THE WORDSWORTH CENTER for Growth and Healing, the goals of poetry therapy are:

  1. To become aware of one’s thoughts and feelings through response to literature
  2. To clarify and define oneself by stating one’s thoughts and feelings
  3. To come to terms with one’s explosive or elusive emotions
  4. To bring order and clarity to chaotic thoughts and feelings
  5. To use writing as a means of expression and sharing
  6. To interact with others in a group, respecting their reaction and statements
  7. To enhance a sense of belonging
  8. To stimulate the senses, creative imagination and recollection

How does Poetry Therapy work as another approach to aid in recovery?

A poem is chosen by the session facilitator that is relevant to the group’s purpose for meeting . . . in this case, any addiction. The poem then acts as a stimulus for an interactive discussion, guided by the therapist or counselor.

Why is Poetry Therapy an effective tool for clients to use in recovery?
Poetry and its therapeutic use affects the right side of the brain that responds to the heart, emotions, senses and the arts. The poem’s words and truth enter almost immediately into the client’s mind and may allow them to surface feelings, traumatic events, and/or memories as seen through the objective lens of the poem. This often enables clients to begin to see their addiction and its ramifications in a new way, and may help them better understand their addiction and to share their own experiences through discussion, or through writing in prose or poetic form. Learn more about poetry therapy by visiting www.poetrytherapy.org.

Client comments written after poetry therapy sessions at Recovery Plus

Mary Willette Hughes’ presentations and workshops


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