Poetry and bibliotherapy

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The poetry and bibliotherapy are artistic therapies such as music therapy and dance therapy , who originally developed independently and the "healing power of language," the reading of soothing and uplifting literature and writing use and design their own literary texts to support healing processes, Solving problems and promoting personal development. As in the other creative therapies, different modalities can be used. Today, these two therapeutic approaches are often combined and used for specific tasks and indications in various clinical-therapeutic, psychosocial, educational and adult education fields on the basis of qualifying training and further education.

Poetry and bibliotherapy in this combined form was introduced in the 1970s by Hilarion Petzold and Ilse Orth , especially in German-speaking countries, and developed into integrative poetry and bibliotherapy. In the USA, England and Finland, poetry and bibliotherapy are more widespread in clinics, schools, prisons, rehabilitation centers, counseling centers, children's and old people's homes than in the rest of the international and European area. The first studies and reports with positive results are available for the necessary empirical evidence, but broader coverage of differential therapeutic effects (disorder and target group-specific) with methodologically good studies is required.


Jack Leedy (1969) and Arthur Lerner (1978) were important protagonists in poetry therapy in America. Rhea Joye Rubin (1978) should be mentioned for bibliotherapy. Both approaches were originally used individually and viewed as "ancillary methods" in psychiatric therapy (Leedy 1966). It was only in the German-speaking countries that poetry and bibliotherapy based on Russian approaches to having a healing effect through literature were used (Hilarion Petzold 1965) and, as already mentioned, have been practiced in a combined form of both approaches by Ilse Orth and Hilarion Petzold since the 1970s - further developed for integrative poetry and bibliotherapy. In 1984 they founded the "German Society for Poetry and Bibliotherapy" (DGPB eV) as a professional and specialist association and in 2010 the "German Institute for Poetry and Bibliotherapy" at the "European Academy for Biopsychosocial Health".

Poetry therapy as therapy using self-composed and designed texts

Poetry therapy works - like all other forms of artistic therapy - with clinical, agogic and aesthetic emphases and with an active or productive and a receptive design modality or a combination of modalities. In the productive modality it is about creating one's own texts, in the receptive modality it is about the use of existing texts - whereby the transitions to the bibliotherapy approach are fluid - in which texts from the "literary space" are used. Both approaches use lyric , epic and dramatic means from the fund of "great art", entertainment or folk art and include materials of literary forms of use. In poetry therapy, patients are encouraged to write and talk about texts under the guidance of a therapist. Contents of the texts can be e.g. B. current experiences, biographical experiences and problems, symptoms and complaints, longings and hopes or fictions of the patient. A new organization of thoughts, emotional clarification and relief can take place in writing. Writing should capture experiences, fantasies, fears or other complaints or make them tangible, express them, shape them creatively and make them communicable and promote insights and meaningful experiences. Poetry therapy strengthens people's creative abilities and thus their problem-solving skills. It makes contributions to personal development and to the realization of a personal art of living . When working on the materials, different paths can be taken depending on the poetry therapeutic direction. Psychodynamic orientations choose forms of depth psychological interpretation, experimental approaches choose forms of psychodramatic expression possibilities, in the integrative approach of poetry and bibliotherapy, intermedia cross-paths to visual, non-verbal, imaginal processing are taken in order to develop hermeneutical understanding of meaning and to combine basic knowledge from developmental psychology, neurosciences and therapy research Combining a comprehensive approach of therapy and personality development.

Bibliotherapy as therapy with books and texts

In the bibliotherapeutic form of work, diverse genres of literature (poetry, epic, drama), travel, life and fate reports as well as biographies are used. They can support identification services and dealing with problems. Problem-related non-fiction and specialist books (self-help books, psychological advice, disorder-specific informational texts) can be used in a psychoeducational way. The therapist selects the literature - partly in collaboration with the patient - but also with them. One of the goals of bibliotherapy is to support cognitive and emotional processing processes in the reader, to provide information that helps to change his attitudes and behavior. Reading can give the reader insight into his problems, show possible solutions, enable him to make comparisons with other people and encourage change.


  • Tobias Blechingern: Bibliotherapy and expressive writing in child and adolescent psychiatry . Dissertation University of Tübingen 2011. pdf
  • Hilarion Petzold, Ilse Orth (Ed.): Poetry and Therapy. About the healing power of language. Poetry therapy, bibliotherapy, literary workshops . Aisthesis, 2005, ISBN 3-89528-528-5 .
  • Uwe Henrik Peters: Lexicon of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Medical Psychology. Elsevier, Urban & Fischer, 2007, ISBN 978-3-437-15061-6 , p. 78.
  • J. Weis, S. Seuthe-Witz, GA Nagel (Ed.): Describing the indescribable, saying the unspeakable. Poetry and bibliotherapy with cancer patients. Results of a research project . Regensburg 2002, ISBN 3-89783-334-4 .
  • The healing power of language: poetry and bibliotherapy in practice. Verl. Der Setzkasten, Düsseldorf 2002, ISBN 3-00-009333-8 .
  • Silke Heimes: Why writing helps. Proof of effectiveness for poetry therapy. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2012. ISBN 978-3-525-40161-3
  • Felizitas Leitner: Venus is on strike. Healthy through the power of poetry. 6., revised. Ed., Daedalus, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-89126-149-1
  • Petzold, HG, Leeser, B., Klempnauer, E. (2017): When language heals. Handbook for poetry and bibliotherapy, biography work, creative writing. Festschrift for Ilse Orth, Bielefeld: Aisthesis. 1039 pages.

Individual evidence

  1. M. Merten: Don't trust it - just hope. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt . (online) December 2002, p. 558.
  2. Silke Heimes, Hans-Ulrich Seizer, Michael Soyka, Christian Zingg: The healing power of language in poetry therapy. In: Music, dance and art therapy. 19 (1) 2008, pp. 36-47.
  3. Silke Heimes, Hans-Ulrich Seizer, Michael Soyka: Creative coping with a life crisis with the help of poetry therapy. In: Music, dance and art therapy. 19 (2) 2008, pp. 93-97.
  4. ^ Karen A. Baikie, Kay Wilhelm: Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. In: Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 11/2005, pp. 338-346. (on-line)
  5. ^ Literature on effectiveness, compiled by James W. Pennebaker under Selected Pennebaker Reprints
  6. Nancy P. Morgan, Kristi D. Graves, Elizabeth A. Poggi, Bruce D. Cheson: Implementing an Expressive Writing Study in a Cancer Clinic. In: Oncologist . 13 (2) 2008, pp. 196-204. (abstract)
  7. For more information on the story, see: Hilarion Petzold, Ilse Orth (ed.): Poetry and Therapy. About the healing power of language. Poetry therapy, bibliotherapy, literary workshops . Aisthesis, 2005, ISBN 3-89528-528-5 .
  8. [1]
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  10. Cf. Petzold, HG (1997o): Integrative Music Therapy - an education with clinical, aesthetic and psychotherapeutic focus. In: L. Müller, HG Petzold (1997) (Ed.): Music therapy in clinical work: Integrative models and methods. Stuttgart u. a .: Gustav Fischer. Pp. 278-295. - Petzold, HG (2004q): The self as an artist and as a work of art - receptive art therapy and the healing power of “aesthetic experience”. In: Integrative Therapy 3 (2004) 267-299. - http://www.fpi-publikation.de/polyloge/alle- Ausgabe/update-2006-1999q-07-2001-petzold-hg-das-selbst-als-kuenstler-und-als-kunstwerk.html
  11. Horst Belke: Literary forms of use . Düsseldorf 1973.
  12. ^ Petzold, HG; Orth, I .: Epitome. POLYLOGUE IN INTEGRATIVE THERAPY: “Mentalizations and empathy”, “Embodiments and interoception” - basic concepts for “complex learning” in an intermethodical process of “co-creative thinking and writing”. In: Petzold, HG, Leeser, B., Klempnauer, E. (Ed.): When language heals. Handbook for poetry and bibliotherapy, biography work, creative writing. Aisthesis Verlag, Bielefeld 2017, p. 907 ff .