Developing a thera-poetic practice: Writing rescued speech poetry as a literary therapy — Sarah Penwarden


In narrative therapy, documents written by counsellors as part of therapy can assist with the re-authoring of clients’ lives in tune with their preferred narratives. Rescued speech poems are an addition to documentation such as letters and certificates. In this thera-poetic practice, a therapist writes poems directly from the client’s talk, offering these poems back as a retelling. Drawing on my doctoral study, I explore the writing of rescued speech poems through five practices: listening for the poetic in the ordinary, listening multiply, capturing a client’s words, depicting their speaking on the page and offering the poems back. I also discuss elements of power in this approach, and how dialogue between client and therapist facilitates the client’s evaluation of the effects of the poetry. This kind of poetic writing can assist with the re-authoring of client’s identities through the therapist’s tuning of their ears to hear the tones of the poetic in ordinary talk.