Today’s session opened with Anne Kenny introducing writing on the theme of ‘happiness. Raymond Carver’s poem Happiness describes two paperboys at dawn, not talking, and how ‘Happiness. It comes on/ unexpectedly.’ In a paragraph by Virginia Woolf, Clarissa remembers happiness in the perfect moment of ‘a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass’ thirty years earlier. In Billy Collins’ ‘I Ask You’, the poet is seated at a kitchen table, wanting nothing more. We discussed how there is less writing about happiness than about struggles of various kinds, then wrote in response.
I then talked about how I discovered ‘Poetry Therapy’ and introduced my plans for offering training – documented here. The discussion became very interesting, focusing on what it is about writing that is beneficial, how it shares attributes with art, music, drama as an expressive medium, but also offers something unique.
Maggie Smith, a regular at the Kent Network, and an experienced counsellor and writer offers the following comment about the use of writing in one-to-one therapy:
‘When I considered the counsellors I’ve worked with and supervised, they have mostly used writing in their work with clients as a matter of course in the form of clients writing letters to family members, people who have harmed them and other situations; poems, re-telling narratives, stories etc. It has been quite often that clients have written poems or stories as part of their process. Maybe its something that has naturally evolved as part of the therapeutic process and then I thought of the development of Narrative Therapy which has been around for years and the Anthroposophical counselling training of
Biographical Therapy based at the Training College in East Sussex. There is however a glaring gap in what is available in the use of poetry and so your course is much needed. Your presentation was very thought provoking and interesting, would have liked it to be longer.’
Maggie now has her own blog which you can find here.
I also ran the question by Mark Charlton, a friend of mine who is a writer and a painter and has experience of the therapeutic process. He blogged about it here on ‘Views from the Bike Shed’. In passing, I highly recommend his memoir about fatherhood, ‘Counting Steps’.
For me, the group process both in reading and responding to poems is another layer. And of course bringing art forms together can lead to great shifts.