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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 161-172

Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry

UCLA Department of Psychiatry, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA

Received 31 January 2005; Accepted 11 April 2005

Copyright © 2005 Robert Carroll. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


My purpose in this paper is to help you experience for yourself the potential of poetry to heal by feeling its power through your own voice. Many people have an intuitive sense that voice in general and poetry in particular can be healing. We have all experienced the comfort of soothing words. Finding the words to articulate a traumatic experience can bring relief. A letter between friends who are fighting can heal a relational wound. People are frequently moved to write a poem in times of extremity. In mainstream culture there are subjects that are not talked about. They are taboo. For example, each of us is going to die, but we do not talk about dying. We are all in the dialogue of illness, death and dying, whether or not we are talking about it. Poetry gives us ways to talk about it. Multiple ways of utilizing poetry for healing, growth and transformation will be presented including the Poetry and Brain Cancer project at UCLA. Particular attention will be given to issues of Palliative care. The reader will be directed to the scientific evidence of the efficacy of utilizing expressive writing. The developing professional field of Poetry Therapy, and The National Association for Poetry Therapy will be discussed.