Inspirational Videos: Poetry as Therapy

From the Middle East to medical school, watch the power of poetry to reveal and release what is within.

Poetry in Medical School

Doctor and poet Rafael Campo of Harvard Medical School thinks medical school distances doctor and patient at the cost of human understanding. A possible cure? He uses poetry to help close the gap. In this PBS segment, Jeffrey Brown and Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey continue to seek “Where Poetry Lives” by visiting Campo’s reading and writing workshop for medical students and residents. In the following video clip, the group explores a central theme: the occasional disconnect between medical facts and human truths:

Three Harvard Medical School students, enrolled in the aforementioned workshop, comment on the value of poetry in their lives, which includes hearing the stories of patients in a profound way:

Poetry in Medicine

Poetry therapist,* John Fox, Reflects on the benefits of poetry therapy through a case study of Sally, a cardiac bypass and breast cancer survivor who reflects upon the precious insights on living life that she gained through writing.  Fox talks about the power of language to express innermost fears and joy, and to carry us from illness and loss to hope and understanding.  In this clip, you can witness emotions that arise when reading what one has written, as supportive others bear witness:

*The International Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy has developed a credentialing program for those individuals who wish to become certified or registered poetry therapists.

Poetry in Dubai

We see how poetry transcends culture in the inspirational film below from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, featuring poetry therapist John Fox.  We witness a poignant mother-son moment of authentic connection through writing, where they both share their feelings about listening to one another. His student Bahareh Amidi reflects on the process: Poetry for me is feelings and images put into words with music that cannot be heard but felt.  Therapy is the Band-Aids that one can put on wounds that cannot be seen but, even more than putting on the Band-Aids, it’s taking off the Band-Aids and looking at what’s under there and letting it breathe:

Poetry Activities

The following clip offers some suggestions on how to get started using poetry to spark your own meaningful writing.  The clip features Kathleen Adams, LPC, Founder and Director of the Center for Journal Therapy, which offers Certification Training:

This clip shows a Tree Poem activity designed for those living with Alzheimer’s disease: (One must first register with an email address in order to view the instructions:

Poetry Lectures

Dr. Louis Hoffman of Saybrook University offers a number of online lectures with power point presentations on the use of poetry in mental health.

“Poetry and Effective Healing” includes some foundational theory on poetry and healing, followed by an illustration of how poetry can be used in working through a grieving process:

“Poetry and Grieving” offers a deeper look at the use of poetry in processing loss:

“A Framework for Understanding the Psychological Dimensions of Poetry”:

“Poetry, Healing, and Growth” is a series of six power point lectures, also by Dr. Louis Hoffman:

  1. “Overview of Psychological Dimensions of Poetry”
  2. “Poetry and Intrapersonal Processes: Facilitating Self Exploration and Self Awareness”
  3. “Poetry & Meaning: Using Poetry to Facilitate Meaning”
  4. “Poetry and Interpersonal Processes: Using Poetry to Facilitate Empathy”
  5. “Poetry and Interpersonal Processes: Deepening Relationships and Promoting Healing and Growth”
  6. “Poetry for Social Change and Activism”