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Blackout Poetry for Wellness

Since starting at Looking Glass Counseling in August 2019, I have found a variety of expressive therapy activities and modalities to be meaningful and effective to emotional growth and symptom management. One activity I think anyone can gain insight or benefit from is blackout poetry. A definition of blackout poetry I like from Arapahoe Libraries defines such as, “when you take a written piece of text from a book, newspaper, or magazine and redact words, in order to come up with your very own poetry!”

The link above gives a great introduction to what blackout poetry is and how it can be implemented in a variety of written media. But how do I use this approach in my work as an expressive therapy? I commonly use blackout poetry with client work from a place of journaling and self-reflection. When a client asks how to navigate a specific situation they have a lot of thoughts but a lack of answer/direction in what to do next. Here’s what I ask clients to do…and you can try it too:

  • Take 5-10 minutes (or more or less) to journal about your feelings, thoughts, concerns, and/or reflections on a topic you want to focus on.

  • After writing, make time to save/take a photo of your writing…some clients I work with have hard time modifying their writing so saving the original piece can be helpful.

  • Whether using the black highlighter feature on your computer or a black marker/pen, re-read the piece and as you’re reading cross out words/phrases that don’t feel necessary or don’t hold a strong emotion. You may need to do this step a few times to help redact what isn’t essential to what you’re feeling about the entry.

  • Read outloud and reflect on what is left and see if it sounds right and discuss accordingly with someone you trust.

When I have used this technique with many clients, they will commonly have an insight expressing what they truly value in their issue of concern. Some are surprised in their conclusions and others are relieved/confirmed in their values. If you give this approach a try, share your writings with your therapist or someone you trust and see what comes of it as you navigate mental health and wellness.

In observance of Earth Day (April 22) Looking Glass Counseling is pleased to make a donation to Mothers Out Front. Mothers Out Front is an inclusive group of mothers, grandmothers and other community members working to build a sustainable and socially just future by prioritizing environmental justice for communities in our city coping with disproportionate pollution and environmental risks.


Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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