Telehealth Activity: Blackout Poetry

Get ready, kids, because I’m about to age myself with a personal story. Years and years ago, when I was still a high school student and was touring colleges, I sat in on an undergraduate creative writing course. (My plan was to be a famous poet – how things change!)

The professor handed out newspapers, an ancient form of sharing information from before social media. Imagine if someone delivered your Twitter feed to your front door at 5am. That’s how we used to get our news. Anyway, he had us create blackout poetry from various articles.

person holding white ceramic mug on newspaper
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Blackout poetry is a form of creative writing where you take a written page and cross out, redact, or cover up words to create a new poem or story out of the words that remain. It’s a great creative activity that can yield some interesting insights about a client’s thoughts and feelings

This website lets you create blackout poetry online. They have some public domain texts pre-loaded that you can choose from, and you can copy-paste any text you would prefer to use. As long as the activity is for a session and will not be distributed, sold, et cetera, you can paste pretty much any text into the box on the website and use it for blackout poetry. You can also write your own text and make blackout poetry off of that.

You can screen share and grant the client remote control, or have them pull up the website and share their screen with you. The website works by choosing your text, clicking on the words you want to preserve, and click “black out.” It will cover any words not selected to save, like on my example here:

for a moment she found herself very well.

Unlike doing blackout poetry with physical paper, online blackout poetry lets you correct mistakes. If I forget to select a word, I can go back and add it, and it isn’t permanently covered by ink, paint, or whatever medium I am using. This is great for kids who want their art to turn out a specific way because they have the opportunity to fix their poem. On the other hand, the in-person version creates an opportunity to practice letting go and moving forward. I think both versions of the intervention have benefits.

Another way you can do this activity is jointly. You and your client can take the same text and create a blackout poem on your separate devices, and then each share what you came up with. This is particularly fun with groups, as each client can share their poem separately. For groups in particular, this kind of creative activity can lower inhibitions, since they are working with words already written down rather than having to come up with something on their own, which can feel vulnerable.

This is another creative intervention that taps into different ways of thinking and explores new ways for clients to express themselves.

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.