Poetry Therapist

Poetry Therapy, journal therapy, and bibliotherapy are terms used synonymously to describe the intentional use of the written or spoken word by trained biblio/poetry/journal therapist to further therapeutic goals and enhance the well-being of individuals and groups through the integration of emotional, cognitive and social aspects of self.

Bridges of Communication

NAPTEvocation Poetry and other forms of written or spoken media provide powerful and refined tools to evoke feeling responses for discussion guided by a trained facilitator. The interactive process is integral to the educational, therapeutic and personal well-being of the individual.

The skillful and creative application of poetry and other literature, when used in response to interpersonal and social issues within our complex and diverse society, can foster community, build bridges of understanding and restore the creative imagination.

...And Expression The process of writing, encouraged by the sensitive guidance of a therapist, poet, or other professional trained in biblio/poetry therapy, acts as a significant catalyst for healing and self-integration.

Telling one's story through poems, songs, journals, or other expressions of the written word provides vital material for the therapeutic process. Finding one's own voice is a self-affirming process often followed by cathartic release, greater self-awareness, and new insight. Poetry allows the varied and paradoxical aspects of self to coalesce into a unique expression of heart, mind, and soul.

Bridging Community

The National Association for Poetry Therapy is an energetic, world-wide community of people who share a love for the use of language arts in growth and healing. Members represent a wide range of professional experience, schools of therapy, educational affiliations, artistic disciplines, and other fields of training in both mental and physical health. In addition to its professional membership, NAPT welcomes all persons who are interested in the power of the healing word.

Membership in the Association offers services such as publications, educational seminars, national and regional conferences, collegial support, and informal networking opportunities for those interested in biblio/poetry therapy.

How Do You Become A Poetry Therapist?

The training guide published by the National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy states that “thousands of professionals use poetry and other forms of literature to foster personal growth and help to achieve therapeutic goals with clients. The only persons authorized to call themselves poetry therapists are those who have fulfilled the training requirements and have been awarded or who are eligible to be awarded the designation of either Certified Poetry therapist (CPT) or Registered Poetry Therapist (RPT) by the certification committee.”

Those who seek training have a love of literature and creative writing with an understanding of basic psychology and group dynamics. The CPT’s training is geared to working in developmental settings with healthy populations. They have a minimum of a B.A. The RPT must have a M.A. in a mental health field and is qualified to work with clients in clinics, hospitals, prisons, treatment centers as well as with mentally healthy populations.

Training is achieved through selecting a mentor/supervisor(M/S) who has worked in the field for many years. Together with the M/S the trainee designs a self study program to fulfill a designated number of hours in facilitation of individuals and groups, didactic study, peer activities and supervision. A trainee may need to round out their background in literature and/or psychology, depending on their education. Some mentors offer intensive study weeks, usually in the summer. Trainees may work with other mentors who have a specialty in an area they are pursuing, such as worked with the elderly or HIV patients, but each trainee only has one main supervisor. This is a richly rewarding way of learning whereby the trainee discusses on the phone and/or email (if a long distance learner), often on a weekly basis, the theory and process of ongoing facilitations.

Those interested may check out the website of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT) at www.poetrytherapy.org and order a Training Guide from Sheila Dietz, Executive Administrator 525 SW 5th Street, Suite A Des Moines, IA 50309-4501 or phone toll free at 1-866-844-NAPT or email sdietz@assoc-mgmt.com.

Essential Personal Qualifications

Those who seek training for certification must have initiative, be emotionally stable, patient, possess self-understanding, patience, tact, flexibility, good judgment, a respect for boundaries, and a commitment to life-long learning.

What Professional Credential Is Required to Practice Poetry Therapy?

As stated above, to practice poetry therapy officially, one must have a B.A., M.A., a background in both literature and writing and psychology, and have earned either a CPT or RPT awarded by the Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy. After successful completion of the training, which takes a minimum of two years but can take longer depending on the trainee’s schedule, one can work as a poetry therapist. To maintain this credential, poetry therapists must continue working in the field on a regular basis.

Last updated: November 2004