Writing to Right Themselves| Poetry as a Psychological Intervention for Women with Depression

by Sarah Maria Pinkerton

Institution: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Year: 2016
Keywords: Mental health; Literature; Women's studies
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2093377
Full text PDF: http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/#viewpdf?dispub=10151640


Researchers and clinicians have been applying narrative techniques to psychology for decades. James Pennebaker, a noted psychologist who studies narrative therapy and techniques, helped to create the Linguistic Inquire and Word Count program (LIWC), which analyzes and delineates word usage in a given body of text. This is based on his research and interactions with narrative techniques. Through the use of LIWC, researchers have determined that individuals who present with adaptive personality traits, such as insight and a desire to seek personal growth, display a certain writing style and word usage. Socially inclusive words (such as the pronouns “we” and “us,” along with words related to social interactions), insight-related words, and emotion/affect words were linked to higher rates of health. Utilizing the LIWC tool with populations not previously studied can expand the literature on narrative analysis to include new and specific syndromes. The current study used the LIWC program to analyze works of poetry written by women with and without known mental health conditions, in order to identify markers related to depression and suicidality. Poetry by Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, and Elizabeth Bishop served as the literature analyzed by the LIWC system. Each author was addressed based on depressive symptomatology; their respective word usages were noted, analyzed, and compared, looking for significant differences among the three authors. Results suggest that poetic writing focused on insight, pro-social behaviors, and opportunities for change are correlated with positive mental health. Results further suggest that the act of writing and understanding poetry may correlate to mental health intervention when certain linguistic markers are noted.