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Jennifer shirley literature as a therapy tool (research paper)


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Jennifer shirley literature as a therapy tool (research paper)

  1. 1. Shirley 1Jennifer A. ShirleyMrs. CorbettAP Literature17, November 2011 Literature as a Therapy Tool Throughout all of history literature has served to have many purposes. Literature has beenused to teach, entertain, and record information. But, now literature is being seen in a new light.Literature is now being used as a therapy tool for people both young and old who suffer from amental illness. Literature has been used as a therapy tool for many centuries. Poetry therapy is “theintentional use of poetry and other forms of literature for healing and personal growth” (Fox).Poetry especially has been used as a healing device. It has been discovered that “shamans andwitchdoctors chanted poetry for the well-being of the tribe or individual” (McCasey). Doctorshave thought that poetry has always possessed healing powers and often would recommend thatfamily members read to the patients. Even though, the witchdoctors use to believe that poetrycould heal actual physical illnesses their beliefs did begin a medical revolution that would springup centuries later. Within the first hospital of the United States doctors used literature as a formof therapy. The treatments that were recommended consisted of “reading, writing and publishingof [the patients] writings” (McCasey). Mentally ill patients benefit from the writing of poetrybecause it is an outlet for their emotions in which they can fully express themselves without the
  2. 2. Shirley 2fear of judgment. Also, reading poetry can be helpful to the mental state of a patient. Poetry hasbeen used for centuries in order to help the healing process along. Literature was first introduced in the modern hospital in the early 1900s in the form ofchants, songs, and stories. The use of literature as a form of medication is formally called“bibliotherapy” (McCasey). Bibliotherapy refers specifically to the use of books as a form oftherapy. Patients would read books on their own, or have them read to them. On the other hand,poetry therapy is more a more specific form of bibliotherapy which uses “metaphor[s], imagery,rhythm, and other poetic devices” (McCasey) to improve the mental state of patients. Poetrytherapy is unique in the sense that it taps into the emotions of the patients. Poetry therapy alsohelps because patients can experiment by writing their own poetry as a form of self expression. Poetry is a very powerful tool in the hands of the right people and doctors have found itvery helpful in the treatment of mentally ill patients. One of the most common mental disorderstreated by poetry therapy is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most people believe that warveterans are the only people that suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but that is far frombeing the truth. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by several different traumaticevents such as “a parent being sent to prison or mental hospital, suicide of a parent or loved one,being exposed to violence or learning of a traumatic event occurring to a parent or loved one”(Oord, Lucassen, and Emmerik). This proves that adolescents can also suffer from PostTraumatic Stress Disorder as well. Furthermore, this can be extremely damaging when the childgrows older. Children are very fragile and can be easily hurt. Also, doctors believe that “Ifchildren with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are not treated adequately, [their] symptoms maypersist into adulthood and lead to chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (Oord, Lucassen, andEmmerik). Traumatic events happen in the lives of children every day and since children are so
  3. 3. Shirley 3delicate, doctors debated on a way to treat them without damaging their psyche. With that inmind, doctors decided that it would be a good idea to experiment with the use of bibliotherapy.Within situations concerning adults the “use of literature, discussion and creative writing” arepractical (“Poetry Therapy”). Assignments are given and then they are reviewed later with thetherapist present. These writings can also be shared with family members or a spouse. On theother hand, children are a special case because they may not be old or mature enough to handlethe writing assignments. Because children are so unique, therapists have come up with a way touse a modified form of bibliotherapy in order to help them. Doctors have decided that they canuse bibliotherapy with children by sitting down with the child while they write a story about howthey are feeling or even by having the child draw a picture and describing it. This may seemunconventional, but this helps the child who is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder toexpress their feelings without them feeling uncomfortable. Poetry therapy is not the only literary therapy that is used in the treatment of mentalillnesses. There is also open journal therapy, in which “client and therapist write to each other.Each is free to write about whatever seems useful and germane and to reflect on what happenedin a session or on what the other has written” (Schneider, Austin, and Arney 60-61). This form oftherapy is different, yet seems to be effective. In this situation the patient can express themselvesand gather their thoughts into one place. “The writing does not replace face-to-face therapysessions. Rather the writing works to make the sessions more client directed and to deepen theunderstanding of both client and therapist” (Schneider, Austin, and Arney 60-61). Within thistype of therapy the patient controls the sessions by bringing up topics to discuss within letters tothe therapist. Since the patients have a lot of the control it makes them feel more comfortable andhelps them more freely express their inner emotions. Open journal therapy is new, inventive, and
  4. 4. Shirley 4helpful for a number of patients, and not only those who suffer from Post Traumatic StressDisorder. This form of therapy has also been studied with patients that live with the mentalillness schizophrenia. “Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder that makes it difficult to: tellthe difference between real and unreal experiences, Think logically, Have normal emotionalresponses, [and] Behave normally in social situations” (PubMed Health). Using open journaltherapy is a great tool within the treatment of patients who suffer from schizophrenia.Considering that people who have schizophrenia have difficulty functioning in social situationsthe writing is beneficial because the patients can get their inner emotions out to the therapistwithout the patient having to talk to the therapist off the top of their heads. It is also helpfulbecause the patient already has their ideas down on paper and then the therapist can help themexpand upon those ideas. As stated before poetry therapy is helpful in more than just cases of Post Traumatic StressDisorder. Poetry therapy can also be used as a treatment for the mental illness anorexia nervosa.In most therapy settings, “treatment of women with anorexia nervosa often focus on weight gainas the primary therapeutic goal without concurrently addressing psychological concerns”(Robbins and Pehrsson). This is a major problem within most treatment plans, because anorexianervosa is in fact a mental illness. In order for a treatment to work a therapist must first begin atthe source of the problem which can often be low self esteem, abuse, or other psychologicalissues. Doctors can treat the psychological issues by using “narrative and poetry therapy becauseit offers women an opportunity to create an expressive and assertive voice while shifting blamefrom the self to the disorder” (Robbins and Pehrsson). This is extremely effective and is helpfulin preventing a relapse within patients. Also it helps the women put their feelings onto paper
  5. 5. Shirley 5rather than torturing themselves. The use of poetry therapy is helpful in many differentsituations. Unlike adults, children are extremely hard to treat for mental illnesses because mostchildren either cannot or will not directly speak to their therapists about the events going on intheir lives. Poetry therapy is very important within cases involving children because, “they helpthe children to achieve a capacity for directness, clearer self-understanding, and clearercommunication with important others in their lives” (Seiden 170). Children tend to respond morepositively to interactions involving apparatuses that they are used to seeing, such as story books,coloring pages, or toys. Being able to relate to the children in these ways will greatly improvetheir success in the therapy sessions that they attend. Also, children’s books can be used as aform of bibliotherapy, “[it] can assist children in overcoming problems by having them readstories about characters who have successfully resolved a dilemma similar to their own”(Davies). This is important because children learn through examples. Also, children look up tocharacters of books which means that if they read about a character that has overcome the samedifficulty that they are dealing with they will have more hope to overcome the obstacle. In thefirst stages of bibliotherapy the stories for children were “intensely and unapologeticallydidactic” (Hundley). Books often plainly told children what to do and what not to do. Theygenerally involved instructions on religion or other cultural aspects. Now, the books that are usedwithin bibliotherapy for children are more on the subtle side of the spectrum and hint moretoward what children should do through the showing of an example. Overall, bibliotherapy canbe very helpful in children as well as adults. In Conclusion, Bibliotherapy is an important tool within the realm of psychoanalysis.Bibliotherapy and specifically poetry therapy use poems songs and other literary works to
  6. 6. Shirley 6improve the mental stability of patients. Bibliotherapy can be used to treat patients of every age,and also of varying mental illnesses from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anorexia Nervosa, allthe way to Schizophrenia. Bibliotherapy has definitely made a huge impact upon the world oftherapy.
  7. 7. Shirley 7 Works CitedDavies, Leah, M.Ed. “Using Bibliotherapy with Children.” Kelly Bear. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <>.Fox, John. “What is Poetry Therapy?” The Institutte for Poetic Medicine. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <>.McCasey, Nessa. History of poetry therapy. The National Association of Poetry Therapy. N.p., 2011. Web. 17 Oct. 2011. <>.Myracle, Lauren. “Molding the Minds of the Young: The History of Bibliotherapy as Applied to Children and Adolescents .” The Alan Review. Ed. Steven Bickmore, Jacqueline Bach, and Melanie Hundley. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. < Myracle.html>.Oord, Van der, Saskia Lucassen, and Van Emmerik. “Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in children using cognitive behavioural writing therapy.” Galileo. Wiley, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. < 463d-a58a- 96a984606397%40sessionmgr10&vid=1&hid=18&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d# db=a9h&AN=50715224>.“Poetry Therapy.” National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <>.
  8. 8. Shirley 8PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine , 7 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. <>.Robbins, Joy M, and Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson. “Anorexia Nervosa: A Synthesis of Poetic.” Journal of Creativity in Mental Health: 42-56. galilao. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. < pdfviewer?sid=0158ef7e-ccd7-48f3-b424-57f508f4f8ca%40sessionmgr15&vid=2&hid=18>.Schneider, Barbara, PH.D., Christopher Austin, MSW, and Laurie Arney. “WRITING TO WELLNESS: USING AN OPEN.” Systemic Therapies 27.2 (2008): 60-75. Rpt. in Journal of Systemic Therapies. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Galileo. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. < 418b16bef4da%40sessionmgr11&vid=2&hid=18>.Seiden, Henry M. “Using Collaborative Poetry in Child.” International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies: 170-184. galileo. Web. 4 Nov. 2011. < c8d079424b16%40sessionmgr13&vid=2&hid=18>.