Poetry as a Healing Modality in Medicine: Current State and Common Structures for Implementation and Research

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2022 Aug;64(2):e91-e100. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2022.04.170. Epub 2022 May 15.


In healthcare institutions across the country, the role of poetry continues to emerge within the liminal spaces between the medical humanities and clinical care. While the field of narrative medicine is well-developed generally, formal review of the state of poetry as a healing modality is limited. Poetry in the medical humanities literature has often been described by its indefinability as much as by its impact on healing. The power of poetry in healthcare is thought to be multi-faceted and deserves to be explored further. Poetry can be medicine for both patient and clinician. "Poetic Medicine" is a modality that has been utilized for the healing of grief, loss, wounds of the psyche and spirit, and as a process for expanding resiliency in healthcare-applications that are particularly relevant to the practice of hospice and palliative medicine-for patient and clinician alike. While numerous approaches share common themes, current programs bringing poetry into healthcare have been operating largely in isolation from each other-with a lack of national consensus on definitions or structures of interventions. Such isolation is a major restriction to the study and growth of Poetic Medicine. While it is not known with certitude, the number of Poetic Medicine programs in healthcare in the United States appears to be growing. In this paper, we propose an initial framework to define the role and impact of poetry in healthcare and then describe two different, well-established Poetic Medicine programs in the United States.

Keywords: Healing modalities; Medical humanities; Narrative medicine; Palliative care; Poetic medicine; Resiliency.

MeSH terms

  • Grief
  • Hospice Care*
  • Humans
  • United States