Why poetry is one of the most powerful forms of therapy

Bijal A Shah
8 min readApr 7, 2018

April is National Poetry Month and naturally a great time to explore the immense therapeutic powers of poetry. Reading and writing poetry both engage our senses along with our emotions, making the art form experiential and hugely effective in connecting with our minds.

Both writing and reading poetry, through their expression of feelings and words have highly therapeutic effects on the mind.

The structure of a poem favours brevity yet the best poems also capture succinct detail, making them incredibly powerful in getting a message across to the reader. Writing poetry requires the poet to be extremely disciplined with his choice of words and the number of words, to create a sharp and accurate snapshot of what he or she is feeling. This combination of brevity and detail gives the reader open access to the poet’s mind and enables the reader to truly connect with the poet.

Writing poetry as therapy

Writing poetry requires us to be open and honest about our feelings so that we can voice them through pen and paper, which is the first step to truly expressing ourselves.

This acknowledgement of our innermost thoughts allows us to be true to ourselves and boosts our self-esteem (as beautifully explained by author Geri Giebel Chavis in Poetry and Story Therapy: The Healing Power of Creative Expression (Writing for Therapy or Personal Development) which I highly recommend).

The best poetry is written when we are truly in the midst of our emotions and struggling to gain clarity. This is when the cathartic release of emotions to pen and then paper as an outlet calms us, gives us clarity and enables us to move forward.

Poetry’s powerful healing qualities have been documented during both world wars and the American civil war: poems were read to soldiers to help them cope with trauma and the brutalities of war. In fact doctors would write poems for their patients, emotionally connecting with them. A striking example of this is John Keats who also trained as a doctor.

Poetry has also been used by modern-day doctors and physicians at Yale University School of Medicine and University College London School of Medicine. Yale actually has a committee that…

Bijal A Shah

Bibliotherapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy - therapy using the power of literature: https://www.booktherapy.io/ and www.bit.ly/bibliotherapycourse