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This discussion led to group members sharing their own thoughts about not fitting in with peers and with the society at large. However, when the topic of conversation was a subject less personal, such as the conditions of their communities, the level of self-disclosure dropped. For example, in all three groups, the focus of the seventh session was on the community environment and the rates of self-disclosure were low across all three groups 7. This is noteworthy because it indicates that self-disclosure varies with the focus of the conversation, particularly more internal versus more external focus.

During the course of these three poetry therapy groups, group members made themselves known to others by sharing positive and negative aspects of their past, present, and future selves. For example, members of all three groups felt safe enough in the group environment to disclose information about interactions with their parents.

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These recollections included the horror of sexual and physical abuse, and the sorrow of having a parent who is unable to adequately care for their child due to mental illness or substance abuse. It has been noted that self-disclosure on the part of one individual benefits not only the individual, but the group because it often leads to meaningful self-disclosure on the part of other group members Jourard, Jourard, S.

This was evident in these groups; it often seemed that a chain reaction of self-disclosing occurred as a result of a song lyric or an item shared during discussion. More females appeared to take lead roles in initiating self-disclosure. Although the acts of self-disclosure allowed group members to find similarities, they were also able to explore their differences in a prosocial manner.


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For example, in the following dialogue, group members shared different opinions about parents: LR: I couldn't imagine feeling that about my mother. It ain't your dad that got you here, it is your mama who got you here.

The Writing Cure: Poetry As a Tool for Self-Expression

Both of them made you, but mama is the one who had to carry you for nine months. Mama could have flushed you. PR: I hate her more than I love her. I still hate her, but I love her at the same time. I wouldn't let anybody sit and diss my mama, I would sit there and diss her … My mama let her boyfriends rape me, she sold me for drugs, she left me in the house with no food or water.

I just look back on it and think now I can go through anything. Anybody can make me feel so low, but it won't do anything to me because I have been though all types of stuff. LR: I didn't like my mama. You never know how much you love that parent until that parent is gone. I thought that since she didn't raise me, I would be like, oh, she died, I am going to cry but I am not going to think about her being dead.

But you know, I think about her … she did stuff but I wouldn't say I hated her for it, but at a point I was coming to hate her … I don't hate her because I can't ask her for forgiveness anyway. LR: She didn't do nothing to me.

Sylvia Plath

I don't blame her nothing. The addiction is what made her do it. These acts of self-disclosure also helped many group members form meaningful relationships with others in the group, from whom, in many instances, they had felt it necessary to distance themselves, physically and emotionally, for self-preservation purposes.

The field of poetry therapy is in need of rigorous, richly detailed, and systematically obtained evidence to attest to its usefulness as an intervention. One aim of this research was to obtain information about a specific type of poetry therapy intervention to contribute to the existing body of knowledge; however, as with any research pursuit, questions were left unanswered and new questions came to light. It would be valuable for future research related to poetry therapy interventions to focus not only on outcomes, such as increases in levels of group cohesion or meaningful changes in behavior, but also on process.

Much of the research in poetry therapy is summative; however, additional, more formative information is needed regarding the interactions that take place during an intervention as a result of poetry therapy techniques. This research indicates that there was some difference between Groups 1 and 3 and Group 1 in terms of response to the intervention. We attributed some of that difference to the assumptions made about the internalizing versus externalizing nature of the behaviors exhibited by group members.

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In future research it would be valuable to utilize a specific measure that assesses individuals according to an internalizing versus externalizing behavior profile to better account for the influence of behavior problems on treatment outcomes. The intervention that was the basis of this study employs a medium, specifically rap and hip-hop, which is a familiar and enjoyable part of group members' everyday lives.

These adolescents, like most people their age, listen to music on their way to school, during free time in the school gymnasium, while sitting in their rooms, or spending time with friends.

Prior to the start of each group session and in some cases during group, many of the participants would be singing rap lyrics under their breath or tapping out beats with their pencils. These youth were rap and hip-hop experts, and this intervention allowed them to utilize their expertise in a prosocial manner. It is not helpful, for example, if the group worker summarily rules out the dance [or in this case the music] that is currently the rage simply because he considers it objectionable; he accomplishes nothing by being willing to engage with his group members only in the kind of dancing that is acceptable to him.

Rap and hip-hop served as a starting point from which the group was then able to move forward into interactions that allowed for therapeutic self-disclosure and connection. A shared appreciation and fondness for this culturally relevant medium also aided in bridging the very deep class and cultural divide that existed between the facilitator, who was a middle-class, White female from a small rural town in the Upper Midwest, with the group participants, who were primarily African American adolescents from an impoverished urban area in the Deep South.

The findings of this research also support Mazza's Mazza, N. Perhaps the most meaningful finding of this research is that this poetry therapy intervention appeared to have a striking impact on engagement and self-disclosure among these three groups of at-risk youth.

Poetry Therapy with Adults with Intellectual Disabilities

The task of engaging resistant and reluctant adolescents who have had countless interactions with helping professionals of all sorts, some positive and some tremendously negative, is monumental. The evidence gathered via this research indicates that the intervention fostered a group environment in which guarded, difficult to engage, at-risk adolescents felt comfortable and connected enough to engage in surprisingly honest and bold self-disclosure.

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Self-disclosure is not only a means of making the self known to others; it also is a means to make the self known to oneself, a path to self-awareness. The process of self-disclosing in a group setting is a first step toward therapeutic change; continuing the process of knowing oneself is also an important step in creating lasting therapeutic change. It also appears that the creative writing component of this intervention further aided individuals in the ongoing process of engaging in self-disclosure and becoming more self-aware outside of the group room.

It sounds pretty good … it was just coming out. I had a lot of stuff on my mind. The intervention detailed in this research is based on core social work values, especially those related to recognizing and honoring the strengths that exist in all cultures and empowering individuals to utilize and build upon those strengths. The intervention allowed the facilitator to utilize the medium of rap and hip-hop to honor the expertise of group members and learn about the way that the youths viewed their world.

In addition, the facilitator and group participants were able to connect around a shared respect and mutual admiration for the culturally relevant art form of rap music. This connection provided the facilitator a window into the lives of the youths who participated in the groups and, more important, allowed the youths to share their thoughts about life and the seemingly insurmountable challenges they face.

Skip to Main Content. Search in: This Journal Anywhere. Advanced search. Submit an article Journal homepage. Pages Received 11 Jan Published online: 02 March The first point to make is how good leaders often master the effective use of poetic form. These two quotes by Dame Cicely Saunders, a pioneer of the palliative care movement, illustrate this and have been reproduced widely:.

You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.


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How people die remains in the memory of those who live on. One reason for this is the poetic rhythm in these phrases that reaches out, taps into our minds and stays there. Cicely Saunders recognised the importance of creative writing and poetry, and published on this topic. She just knew that it was one part of the process of care that could do good. Bravery with words is arguably a necessary part of leadership. This in turn prompts the question: when was the last time you heard a healthcare leader using a poem to make a point?

Poets, however, have always used poetry to make a political point, and in some countries simply writing has been a punished political act. The Irish Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney describes how he recognised the power of new Irish poems in the s to depict familiar scenes of potato farming and establish them as a valid subject matter.