Bibliotherapy and the Healing Properties of Poetry

The following article was previously published on Suite101

Poetry can heal in ways no other form of art can – Big Mind Zen Center

Poetry can be used to focus on healing through various ways in everyday life. More people should take advantage of this simple but effective healing tool.

It’s no secret that poetry has its own ability to mend broken hearts, make memorable occasions even more special, or make a final good-bye more meaningful. Poetry can help us bridge the gap from one feeling to another.

Romantic poetry in particular can change a person’s entire relationship. Historical poetry can give a completely different view of a historical event. Inspirational poetry can be inspiring to anyone, anywhere. But these healing powers have other, larger uses as well.

The Origins of Bibliotherapy and Poetic Healing

Throughout history, poets have used words and structure to develop a sense of emotion and strength in each line for the reader. Poems have expressed love, remorse, and sometimes even a deeper and darker hatred for others in a way that no other form of art can achieve, at least on the same level. Most importantly, however, poetry can help us heal.

The ability of using poetry as a device of healing, or poetry therapy as it is sometimes called, can be traced back to not only the beginning of poetry, but also to primitive human beings, who used poetry in various religious rites as chants meant for maintaining the well-being of an entire tribe or an individual. The ancient Egyptians even used it by literally ingesting different types of solutions containing dissolved poetry-clad papyrus.

According to, a website devoted to the healing properties of poetry, the term bibliotherapy is used in more cases than the term poetry therapy. The literal meaning for Bibliotherapy is “books, or literature, to serve or help medically” and was first coined in 1916. Poetry Therapy is a form of bibliotherapy.

Poetry Therapy in America

Bibliotherapy has been used in America from the start of the American Revolution even to this day as an additional measure to many types of modern medicine. Bibliotherapy is beneficial to both children and adults in a wide variety of cases. It has been proven especially effective in psychiatric therapy and in certain eruptions of emotional breakdown, but it has also been used as a tool to help in the development of creativity and mental strength in young children.

There are two main types of Bibliotherapy as explained by the UNLV Bibliotherapy Education Project. Clinical Bibliotherapy is used by professional doctors and psychiatrists for assistance with behavioral, emotional, and mental problems. Developmental Bibliotherapy is used primarily by school faculty members and librarians to encourage normal mental and emotional development and health.

Poetry Therapy through bibliotherapy can even help us heal during tough economic times according to Norwich Bulletin writer A.S. Maulicci. However, Americans in general don’t take enough time to reap the benefits of poetry and its healing powers. Poetry, after all, takes time — and a deeper kind of attention. It requires us to stop for a moment, as the poet stopped, to hear a message that falls through our surface lives to much deeper levels.

Even in tough economic times, most Americans are still at a constant, high-speed pace of movement, and so they often miss out on the amazingly therapeutic benefits poetry offers. It forces you to slow down. Even reading or writing a little haiku can remove a person from the frantic, non-stop, and often overwhelming state of modern life.

Poetry Healing in Life

No doubt poetry is one of the most amazingly powerful devices in human history and can open up emotions in a way that few other experiences can. It can slow down our lives and allow us to take that deep breath that we sometimes really need to move forward. It is a calming, soothing healer. For many, poetry can mean the difference between a stress-induced coma and waking up every morning with a smile on their faces.

In fact, if every person took just a few minutes out of every day to read a poem or two, we may yet be able to slow our lives down enough to enjoy the most amazing parts about them before our lives pass us by. In the end, the healing properties of poetry are irreplaceable.