The following is a summary of the presentation given by Ger Campbell and David Madden at the ‘Let the Voices be Heard’ conference 10th -12th October 2019 Belfast. This was an international collaboration between the primary psychotherapy bodies of Ireland, UK and the US., (IACP, BACP, and ACA). The theme of the conference was Social Justice.

The presentation consisted of an overview of Poetry Therapy, its aims, features and benefits. As the overall theme of the conference was ‘social justice’ the presenters highlighted how appropriate poetry therapy was as a therapeutic approach when working with clients who battle social injustice such as homelessness and marginalisation. Two significant case studies were used to illustrate how poetry was used in various settings as an educational and therapeutic tool.  The presenters discussed and contrasted the Hynes and Berry Model of the Goals of Poetry Therapy with their own Model, The Seven Tasks of Poetry Therapy.

Goals of Poetry Therapy (Hynes and Berry, 1994)

  1. To improve the capacity to respond by stimulating and enriching mental images and concepts and by helping the feelings about the images to surface.
  2. Increasing self-understanding by helping individuals value their own personhood and become more knowledgeable and more accurate about self-perceptions.
  3. To increase awareness of interpersonal relationships.
  4. To improve reality orientation.

Seven Tasks of Poetry Therapy (Campbell and Madden, 2019)

Adapted from Lila Weisberger’s six steps in poetry therapy, which was based on Arlene Hynes’ four steps in Bibliotherapy. A ‘task’ defined as the behavioural side of the function, a definitive piece of work expected (Copeland, 2005).

  1. Identify – Finding oneself in the poem (Self-compassion)
  2. Explore -Sharing and exploring feelings and those of the group members (Courage)
  3. Create – Creating something new through writing (Imagination).
  4. Compare – Considering views of others (Empathy).
  5. Insight – Learnings, realisations, insights – a new idea, thought, reframing (NLP).
  6. Action – Helping a client connect feeling with thinking and doing (CBT)
  7. Transform – The integration of learning into positive and healthy change (Integrative)

Ger and David went on to give real-world examples of Poetry Therapy in practice through the 5 W’s:Who – What – Why – When – Where. Towards the end of the presentation, which was filmed for a live-webcast, the presenters did a live ‘Group Poem’ exercise, which went down really well. In the live interview after the talk, even the TV interviewers were keen to share their own contributions to the group poem. The presentation ended with a communal recital of the group poem, followed by a brief question and answer session.





Ger Campbell is a qualified Psychotherapist and Poetry Therapy Practitioner and is training as a Mentor/Supervisor in Poetry Therapy.

David Madden is a qualified Psychotherapist and is training as a Poetry Therapy Practitioner.