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Writing from the Edge: Poems of Empowerment

Facilitator: Brian Sunset

Writing from the Edge: Poems of Empowerment was a collaboration between Cascadia Arts and Healing Center, the Center for Community Counseling, and The Institute for Poetic Medicine.

Writing from the Edge: Poems of Empowerment


For some people relying upon the services of the mental health system, the rules that others make in the world are the ones that often prevail. Choices that many of us take for granted—including where to live, the type of medical attention to seek, educational opportunities—are often made for individuals living with psychiatric disabilities. Sadly, the problems contributing to these peoples’ need for help in the first place were often beyond their control.

These include genetics, poverty, and abuse. Reliant upon the services of the mental health system—out of necessity or habit—has led many people to feel powerless, helpless, and alienated not only from themselves, but from others in similar life circumstances.

Indeed, some people who rely upon support—from psychiatrists, therapists, and government programs—experience an acute sense of isolation, marginalization, and diminished sense of self-worth. This is because the standards by which many people measure their self- worth and value to society—including the possession of living wage jobs, the opportunity for dignified, affordable housing, and the ability to live independently and autonomously—are usually less available to people living with psychiatric disabilities.

Increasingly, there are ways to address the alienation and powerlessness that many people experience. Joining a support group is one of them. Advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness, or NAMI, is another. Another way is to join a support-oriented, empowering poetry circle.

Offered in the fall of 2012, consisted of eight two-hour sessions plus a culminating public reading at the Center for Community Counseling in Eugene, OR.

Benefits to participants include:

The opportunity to get in touch with feelings and emotions; to discover and authenticate one’s truth; and to become empowered to share that truth genuinely, boldly, and assertively. Chief among the benefits, of course is the opportunity to gather together with people facing similar challenges to forge meaningful, supportive connections. This can help to decrease the sense of alienation and isolation that many people feel and create a strong, unified voice.

Sessions will consider relevant themes, described above, offered by the group facilitator; and others arising as part of the group process. An anthology of poems will also be published as a way of honoring workshop participants and their diligent work. This anthology will be sold locally, for a set cost or for donations, to help support future workshops.

The Center for Community Counseling is a non-profit agency serving the needs of adults

living with psychiatric disabilities in Eugene, OR. For more information visit their web

site at

Writing from the Edge: Poems of Empowerment
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