National Poetry Month: What is “Psychoetry?”

National-Poetry-Month-Logo (2015)April is fully underway, which means National Poetry Month is, too – and today I thought I’d share an interview with someone who has taken poetry into an area it hasn’t – officially – been before!

We all know that reading and writing poetry often can be therapeutic for folks who are going through tough times; but what if a licensed mental health professional was to incorporate poetry into his sessions and use it as a way to help people come to terms with the problems they’re dealing with?

Brian P. Wohlmuth is just such as person. He has written a book called Psychoetry: Lessons in Poetic Parenting and joins us today to chat about this intriguing concept.

Thanks for taking the time to be with us  today, Brian. First of all, what exactly is Psychoetry, and how did you come to develop it?

Brian-Psychoetry coverPsychoetry is the marriage of Psychology & Poetry.  As a clinician, I found myself regularly empathizing with children who had unceremoniously stumbled into one or more universal “potholes of childhood.” Although the provision of empathy is a common and essential therapeutic practice, I frequently encountered parents who were operating at a deficit.

Subsequently, the concept for a book that both enhances parental attunement and the ability to administer empathetic appreciation literally unfolded right in front of my face. My childhood exposure to Mother Goose/Dr. Seuss and The Beatle’s lyrics gave birth to the idea of using rhyme as a method of delivery.

What is the benefit of using poetry as that ‘method of delivery’ for your counseling lessons?

It seems to me that rhyme has a tendency to be internalized. Much like a song or lyric that can remain in your head forever, I believe a poem can generate an outcome of similar permanence. The introduction of poetry about psychology is intended to enliven those childhood experiences that reside within each and every adult. When accompanied by pictures and informative narratives, the illumination of forgotten  memories can help establish a common ground that allows parent and child to strive forward together.

Here’s an example”

EXCLUSION

Together with my classmates
against the school yard wall

Recess has just started
it’s time to “dodge the ball”

Scott and Jerry pick as captains
because they are the best

Team members must be chosen
First good players
then the rest . . .

Dave and Randy, they’re selected
Cindy, Greg, and Jenny

Another name that isn’t mine
Slow Todd and clumsy Benny

Large Freddie is a popular choice
cheered by a collective groan

Take me please,
the invisible man
I now stand all alone

What kind of reactions have you had to your Psychoetry? Have you been able to quantify any results?

The reaction to Psychoetry has been extremely positive. I have been a guest on three radio programs in 2015, and look forward to honoring invitations extended for April and May. As a general rule, each respective host has recognized Psychoetry’s content to be informative, and found the combination of Psychology & Poetry to make for an enjoyable read. I have also received feedback suggesting that after revisiting the “universal potholes of childhood” contained in Psychoetry, some parents have actually been the benefactors of a corrective emotional experience(s).

It must be noted, that as of this writing, no evidenced based research quantifying the efficacy of the Psychoetry Method has been gathered.

What types of issues do parents most often discuss with you, and how has poetry helped you to help them?

In my presentations to parenting groups, as well as those who seek private consultation, I find that many parents have allowed their children to become “LARGE AND IN CHARGE.” There are many names assigned to such a phenomenon, such as Entitlement, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Omnipotent Grandiosity. The latter describes a child who has taken up residence in the center of the universe, and has not been adequately taught/informed that there is a world beyond his or her egocentric position. Subsequently, the poems “PA” and “Just Say No,” introduce OPTIMAL FRUSTRATION (frustration in manageable doses)  as the catalyst which gradually engenders a shift from “ME-NESS” to “WE-NESS.” To simplify, and as I write in the book, “A YES IS FOR FUN, but A NO IS WHAT YOU GROW FROM.”

You cover a number of parenting issues in your book – from familial ties and positive reinforcement to doctor visits and the first day of school – and you have a poem for each of these! Are there any poems that seem to have a greater impact than others?

Included in Psychoetry is a poem entitled E = MC2,  which acquaints the reader to the concept of parenting as energy. Basically, it encourages parents to understand that “SOME OF THEIR BEST LIVING WILL BE DONE BY THOSE THEY LEAVE BEHIND,” and invites them to impart energy (parenting practices) that will compliment rather than complicate the development of their child.

The counseling topics that appear in Psychoetry encompass the DROOL to SCHOOL age periods of development. Those issues which accompany the SCHOOL to NOBODY’S FOOL (young adulthood) transition, are awaiting to be poetically addressed.

How long have you been writing and have you written any other poetry besides Psychoetry?

I began writing poetry about 20 years ago, which is when I came up with the idea to combine Psychology and Poetry. I had never written before, but with cautious optimism, I gave it a try. After making a list of the various “potholes,” I began to imagine how they would occur, the circumstances behind their occurrence, and the feeling(s) which might accompany each occurrence. Without previous experience, I had no indication of whether or not I was capable of writing anything worthy of publication.

My uncertainty was replaced by a quiet sense of confidence when Fox Television approached me to do a therapeutic news segment on the effects of being the last one chosen. The poem, “Exclusion,” was used as the backbone for the story, and Psychoetry was put into motion!

Are all your poems geared towards therapy and human relations?

After finishing the essentials for Psychoetry, I attempted to expand upon my creative process. Although I remain dumbfounded to this day, I began to generate poems which were oriented toward Spirituality, and/or Higher Love. What follows are two of my initial post-Psychoetry creations. The first, “Vision,” had the good fortune to be published (in braille) by the John Milton Society For The Blind (Discovery, Oct. – Dec 2000, Volume 1) and appear around the world. The second, “Behold His Mighty Hand, percolated to consciousness as the first of its kind, and thusly, is my personal favorite.

VISION

I overheard the blind girl say,
“he guided me again today.”
Although she felt no form, nor face,
she recognized his warm embrace.
Her tiny voice rang crystal clear,
“It’s faith,” she said, “that brings him near.”
As if to see she turned around
and placed one hand upon the ground.
She told her mom, “he made all this,”
then lovingly blew God a kiss.

 

BEHOLD HIS MIGHTY HAND

Time had been canceled
My forever was death
As eternity dawned
I inhaled one last breath
Then matter of factly
she announced like I knew,
“It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you”

Surrounded by warmth
I did not understand
In the brilliance of light
she extended her hand
And lifting me upward
she said, “Lord what a view . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

I thought to myself,
“these are magical things,
A halo cast sunshine
upon glorious wings”
She softly confided,
“we touch only a few . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

Beyond what she called
“The Celestial Whole”
She explained she had come
to enlighten my soul
And she echoed the words,
“what is written is true . . .
It’s a quarter till Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

Her message was clear
as she bid me farewell
From within we create
either Heaven or Hell
Now each moment on Earth
is HER work that I do . . .
“It’s a quarter to Heaven
and 15 minutes from you.”

(all poems © Brian P. Wohlmuth and used with permission)

If someone wants to find out more about Psychoetry, what should they do?

Please feel free to inquire about Psychoetry at parentingwithpoetry.com!

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2015ProgressivePoemI’m very happy to once again be part of Irene Latham’s annual Progressive Poem! Each day, a different person adds their line to a poem that grows and grows over the course of the month…until it culminates April 30 with the final, closing line.

I’m excited – and a bit anxious – about the fact that it will be up to me to write that last line!

You can see how the poem looks so far at Catherine Johnson’s blog today…and then follow the 2015 Progressive Poem at the following locations:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

One thought on “National Poetry Month: What is “Psychoetry?”

  1. Pingback: Poetry Friday: “Broken” | Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

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