WRITING THERAPY

Therapeutic writing or writing for wellbeing can be a powerful form of therapy, enabling people to explore issues, and put memories and feelings into words that are otherwise too difficult, remote or painful to talk about.

It can be used both as a ‘stand-alone’ therapy, where the focus is on you and your writing; or it can be blended into conventional talking therapy.

Writing as therapy is very different from creative writing. Many people have had bad experiences of creative writing or judge themselves harshly as a bad writer. This kind of self-judgement fades away in therapeutic writing. The key difference is that the value comes from the process of setting words on paper (not some highly polished artistic product). The reflection and ‘permission’ you give yourself in therapeutic writing is where real healing can occur. 

There is a growing body of research showing that the effectiveness of creativity and the expressive arts for mental health. When blended with therapy, the expressive arts can be very helpful for general wellbeing. Writing for wellbeing is one such approach.

If you are interested in this way of working, or want to experience a session, please get in touch.

About therapeutic writing

Writing as therapy is a creative therapy using writing activities, often (but not always) around a theme or topic, as a means of personal discovery, reflection and recovery. Writing as therapy is very different to writing for publication. In this style of writing, technique is unimportant and there is no critique or discussion of it. Rather, the emphasis is on personal reflection – your own insights, emotional process, and creativity.

Within a session, writing is used in different ways. Sometimes people want to use their own writing as a starting point, to discuss and explore personal material. Sometimes people will write about past conversations or remembered pieces of personal or family history. Looking through old family photo albums can be another rich resource and a good stimulus for writing.

Other people prefer to have a prompt, such as a poem, a very short story (also called micro-fiction), a song or song lyrics, or a fairy tale. You can write about these prompts in different ways (see different kinds of writing, below). Mostly people use ‘expressive’ or ‘free’ writing.
As its name suggests, free writing is free-flowing, allowing your hand to move across the page (or your fingers over the keyboard) without self-censorship or judgement. There is absolutely no ‘right or wrong’: whatever comes up in free writing is the right thing to write about in the moment. If you don’t like what you are writing about, stop. Turn the page over and start again.


Free writing tips:

  • Find a time and a space in which you can think and write, without distractions or interruptions
  • Find a pen that is good to write with (or your preferred keyboard!)
  • Let your hand guide you: write what you want to write, without any self-judgement or criticism. There is no need to spellcheck, write with perfect grammar, or critique what you’ve written
  • It can help to write quickly so that your mind is free to work without constraint. Keep writing until you are ‘written out’, but if this turns out to be only a line or two, that is fine. There is no requirement to produce ‘finished’ writing
  • Alternatively, you can write in a ‘sprint’, eg 5-6 minutes At the end of the time, finish your sentence, put down your pen and shake out your hand/s
  • If you don’t like what you’re writing, stop at any time. You can cross it out or delete it.
    Turn the paper over and start again.
  • Read over what you’ve written. You can make changes or leave things as they are. Remember: only you will see this writing (unless you decide to bring it to a session). You can always come back to your writing and change or add to it
    Do keep your writing (don’t be tempted to throw it away)
  • Some people find it helpful to date each entry or piece of writing. It can be very productive to read back over your journal or collection of writing and see your thoughts unfolding.

 

Many people find it good to have a special notebook or journal in which to keep poems and to record thoughts, feelings, insights and responses to stories and poems.

Different kinds of writing

There are different kinds of writing. Free or expressive writing involves writing from a personal view about emotional events. Reflective writing is similar and is a way of reflecting on different aspects of experience, whether personal, professional or from some other domain of life. Reflective journalling is growing in popularity; it offers a private space for processing thoughts or emotions relating to everyday experiences.

A growing body of research indicates that writing for wellbeing can help people organise and externalise their thoughts, calm the mind and strengthen personal identity. It can be meditative as well as highly creative. At the core of all these approaches is ‘free writing’, an activity that invites people to simply – and literally – put pen to paper, let the hand move the pen over the page, and see what comes.

I have specialist trainings in writing as therapy and bibliotherapy, as well as many years’ experience working with both individuals and groups.

Writing therapy sessions

One-to-one writing therapy sessions last 65 minutes. The writing is combined with counselling. Writing can be a way of reaching and uncovering deeper emotions and experiences. I will ask questions about the writing as well as your thoughts and feelings about it what we are exploring.

All the conditions of confidentiality and safety apply. Because I am a trained, registered and experienced therapist, I can offer sessions that are safe as well as confidential.

Mentoring and supervision

I offer mentoring and supervision to other practitioners working in the area of therapeutic writing, poetry therapy and bibliotherapy. Like any other form of mental health practice, therapeutic writing practitioners may have to deal with complex, acute and sometimes personally taxing mental health issues.

If you are a writer moving into this area, it is best practice to work with a professional mentor or supervision with an experienced mental health supervisor. Too often, writers have good intentions but only basic skills training and can quickly feel out of their depth if difficulties emerge in a session. Supervision and mentoring offers professional back-up – a place to discuss issues and challenges, develop your practice, and make sure you that you are working safely and to the best possible standard.

I also offer training and Continuing Professional Development in writing for therapy, for both individuals and/or as commissioned workshops

Resources

 

Margaret Meyer

 

My offer to you is a complete, safe, and supported experience that integrates the practical, emotional and spiritual aspects of your life. I have trained in several different therapeutic methods (including Gestalt, NLP and Family Systems) which I bring together so as to work in a tailored way with each client. 
I am an integrative therapist and practise within what's called the relational humanistic approach, which prioritises the quality of relationship between the client and the counsellor: this is the foundation that supports all of the therapy. 
I have no stake in your decisions or fixed opinions on how you should lead your life. My role is to support you and help you clarify your emotional and mental processes, remaining open, non-judgmental and genuine at all times.

My clinics close at 8.30pm and I will respond the next day to messages sent after that time.

If you need help urgently, call the Norwich Samaritans: tel 0330 094 5717 or 116 123 (freephone).

Many thanks.

 

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