I read this on the internet and it reminded me of the time I spent working with Mental Health patients an experience I think it might be worth blogging about:
How often do you sit at home and wish someone would ring you and suggest, well anything rather than these 4 walls? How many of you have had a night out planned, or arranged coffee with friends and suddenly “these 4 walls” seem the only safe haven because it’s the only place you don’t have to pretend you are ok, so you cancel. Or when you are invited out you tell them how terribly sorry you are but you’re already booked up that weekend, when you are actually just really busy holding it together in your safe box. And so the first problem starts, all by itself , people stop asking you and the isolation that at first wasn’t true becomes your only truth.
Mental Health Awareness!! ❤❤❤
20 years ago Easleigh mental health unit got in touch and asked if I would run a writing class there. Happy to take on a challenge and with nothing to lose I started classes that continued for three years.
Moving, clever, sad and funny, the students turned up every week. I lacked understanding of mental illness so I went in with ideas and the group set the pace .
The results ranged from an apparent cure for agoraphobia to the sad loss of two students through suicide. Somewhere in the middle was a great sense of achievement and a lot of laughter. These wonderful, brave, people gave a performance, reading their work at a local theatre,
Writing is more recognised as a therapeutic tool than it used to be, but there is lots more that can and is being done. If you have the opportunity to help someone by suggesting they write and share, is there anything to lose?
I greatly believe that life’s problems that affect us all can benefit from writing things down. Please read my earlier six blogs on Writing for Therapy.
I’ll write blogs about the other groups I worked with – in prison and with the homeless.
Writing two novels the second to come out in June, has provided a means of escaping into characters’ lives. Poetry is a means of expressing myself and the main goal with my writing is to entertain myself and other people. Perhaps you can do the same. If you teach Creative Writing in mental health areas, please do link up to this blog and share your experiences.
I loved writing this. It gave me so much pleasure to share it with so many people around the world.
Writing is a journey to which there is no end. Writing for pleasure, for therapy or for profit, there is always a reason to write.
Here are some ideas for you:
Write a story for ‘pleasure’ it can be about anything, It needs a beginning, a middle and an end. For ‘therapy ‘put yourself into the story as a character, for ‘profit’, be prepared to learn about writing for a market, and keep on writing when success eludes you. For ‘profit’ you must also have access to a computer and knowledge of computing skills. Know if you want to write 500 words or 100,000+.
Write poetry for ‘pleasure’ – enjoy writing with rhythm, for expression of emotion to capture a moment. For ‘therapy’, write out your thoughts and put them into words. Try a stream of consciousness, – (any thoughts as they come into your mind) then write how you feel. For ‘profit ‘- learn poetic structure, read poetry, be prepared to read to an audience and don’t be put off by writing wonderful poetry that doesn’t sell – be satisfied with the achievement of writing to a high standard.
Write articles for newsletters and local magazines. For therapy – share with readers the good, the bad, and the interesting. If you want to write for profit -learn about article writing and marketing articles. It’s a fun thing to do.
Read widely and take on reading challenges, it will help your writing and if you find the right book it can help your situation.
Meet with other writers – at local clubs and meetings – ask at your library for details or look online. Join online groups, (don’t be fooled into spending money unnecessarily). Be an artist and capture in words beautiful places and things or emotions.
When you are writing for therapy don’t get stuck in a groove, push yourself into new experiences with words.
This is the last introductory Writing for therapy Blog.
I’m told that this introduction to Writing for Therapy sounds like I’m chatting more than instructing. I take that as a compliment.
I wrote for pleasure and profit, but of course, therapy is in there too. This book has drawn on some of my life experiences and expresses my sense of humor that has always helped me through. No one is going to escape the challenges of being alive, some challenges are far greater than others. At all times escape into your imagination and create as much positivity as you can.
Click writing for therapy tag to see 5 more blogs or scroll through my blogs.
Writing for pleasure – my book – a wonderful means of expression and a way of life.
Writing for Therapy and Creative Writing can merge into one another. As a tutor you have a responsibility towards your students on both fronts.
Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing cannot ignore the fact that when a freedom with the written word is taking place many truths come out. There is a responsibility as a tutor towards the rest of a group and towards the individual.
Reading out and sharing what you have written can be productive, but there are times when sharing with just one person is better. In a group situation, no pressure should be put on anyone to read out only an opportunity.
A child wrote about her sexual abuse in the home in a Creative Writing class. The subject matter could not be ignored, but judgement as to the truth of it or looking at the possible outcomes of exposure doesn’t lie with a Creative Writing teacher. In this case it was a question of discussing the possible outcomes with someone with more authority and getting another experienced teacher involved. It isn’t the writing teacher’s place to mention names unless advised to do so and the situation of the author protected. Did the child want it mentioned to anyone else and was anyone ready for possible outcomes? This particular case was in a foreign country where I believed the child, but was unaware of the help available. A medical specialist on the subject was found, she took over and addressed the children in the class on the subject, then made herself available should anyone want to go and see her or importantly – write her a note.
The words people write need careful handling, especially on sensitive subjects.
A student in my adult Writing for Therapy class wrote of very severe abuse as a child – she also wrote about a wonderful childhood. After three weeks I realised that she had a dual personality and was under the mental health care unit.Tutors aren’t told everything when a group starts. I did nothing as I knew she was getting all the help she needed and as to the truth of what she wrote I had no idea. This particular lady enjoyed coming to class and socializing. I moved her onto writing creatively for pleasure and her obvious language skills were a pleasure to listen to. In a creative writing class her abilities were appreciated and there weren’t many places she could feel accepted. A class promoting imagination suited her.
I was moved by a poem of a 15 year old who wrote about prostitution. Clearly this was not her situation, but she was looking sympathetically at the woman’s situation who could not feed her children. Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing can bring about understanding. It can scratch beneath a surface.
Writing for therapy is a stepping stone that leads somewhere else, and it can be a process of bettering a situation.
Eat cream cakes and chocolate to stay thin might sell a lot of books. Perfect your life with Writing for Therapy, might also sell books – neither would be true. Cheering yourself up with a doughnut or chocolate can do your mood good and put weight on, would be real life. Write for therapy or pleasure and experience of the power of words – now that would be accurate.
One last case history. I was asked to teach Creative Writing in a faith school where self expression and uncontrolled personal thoughts were not encouraged. Several students came to me confused between what they felt and the inhibitions on what they could write, set on them by this secluded sect. I ploughed on teaching the students Creative Writing for their exam in the only way I knew. In the end, I was not asked back and the cook was asked to teach them instead. I don’t know if they ever passed their English exams. Before leaving I read them Michael Rosen’s poem about chocolate, only to be asked by the students not to read poems about chocolate again as they weren’t allowed to eat it. Problems emerged when, in the poetry class they started to write what they felt and began asking me about their thoughts and feelings. I told them there were books available and they must ask about them. What the sect made of their poems I don’t know.
In my own family when the children went through hard times, as they all do, I encouraged them to turn to creativity, art, sewing etc., and of course writing stories. They have grown up to write all the time and find it a great outlet and can make money from it as well.
Keep on writing
You might like reading Romantic Comedy – A good read can cheer you up.
Writing for pleasure, this is my book, and a wonderful means to express myself and way of life for me. – Marriage, a Journey and a Dog http://tinyurl.com/jve22js paperback and ebook, internationally available on Amazon and other platforms.
A writing for therapy diary? Write words of self expression and encouragement every day. Add on achievable goals.
Write a letter to yourself from an imagined person.
Write a letter to someone else – real or unreal. Post it, bin it or keep it.
Write a past problem you cannot change and ‘carefully’ burn it.
Make yourself a character in a story and write your own different life. See if any goals come up – like reading – it can be escapism. Ask yourself, What would I have my character do?’
Write down what you would like to say to someone – give it to them or practice saying it in a good way. If you can’t say or give it to them at least you have told the paper.
N.B. You don’t have to be good at your language skills – just imaginative as to how you can use what you know.
If you are happy writing you can improve your skills if you want to. Read books on how to, join a writing group, go to writing events in your area or in a different country. If you say you are not good at writing, but want to learn my experience of writers is they are caring people and they will help you.
Write a sketch with someone like you in it and create characters who speak with you or back to you.
Personification is giving an animal or object human characteristics. You can use this in your writing.
Write a plan for discovering something new – new music – the natural world – friendships – new places, etc.
Look to move on – answers are not always looking back.
1 A precious daughter fell out with her mother when the father died. The mother didn’t understand why. Trying to address the problem proved fruitless. The mother used a word association to see if anything could be done ‘now’. When the answer was that the relationship could not be forced the mother wrote of her feelings and made a plan to move herself on and quietly hope that that the relationship would mend in time.
Her creative word association helped her to make a plan, including travel and a new hobby or two. If or when her daughter settled back into the relationship the mother would be a stronger, happier person – that was the goal for a diary.
2 Bullying is an often internalised situation. ‘Don’t speak to anyone’ – OK don’t, but you can write your thoughts and feelings down. Find a trusted person to share them with if you can. Make a plan to find written material on the internet or in a book – there is lots of help out there. Keep a record of events. It’s a small tool that students and people dealing with workplace bullies have found useful.
3. Slimming stories abound and unlike a lot of slimming advice, ideas for finding ways of helping yourself can be found through writing for therapy and sharing in a group, and the help you can give yourself and share is FREE. Keep a slimming diary, put notes on the fridge, make a shopping list, engage in an interesting hobby, add more ideas in the comments please.
Pick up a pen and paper take it with you everywhere.
I hope these ideas may be useful to all the readers of Writing for Therapy – Introduction.
You might like to read Romantic Comedy – A good read can always cheer you up.
Writing for pleasure, this is my book, and a wonderful means to express myself and make writing a way of life for me. – http://tinyurl.com/jgqpgyw paperback and ebook, internationally available on Amazon and other platforms.
Sharing words that you feel (or maybe didn’t know you felt), is a heightened experience when expressed through poetic language – without the restraints of sentence structure and with freedom of expression.
Faced with four students who were in prison for murder, torture, and knife crime, writing poetry sounded an impossible class to take. They were men with their own ideas and, with a little guidance, managed to translate raw emotion into words.
One young 3 times murderer sat in class and said, ‘I can’t write anything it hurts too much.’ – Such is the power of words. His childhood had been depraved beyond belief. Expression of thoughts can lead to rehabilitation. I repeat – counselling is a specialised field. Through Writing for Therapy students can listen to themselves and if they choose, they can help each other and seek out helpful resources.
Words can be used to underline perverted behaviour as well as relieving problems, this is a journey to a destination that is not one a tutor would personally want or want a student to go down. As with all therapies, there can be a downside.
Sharing written words with the homeless, and mental health patients is a means of expressing raw emotion and a recognition of amazing insights.
A lady who was agoraphobic was able to write meaningful poetry and, eventually read her poetry in public. I taught the poetry – not the mental health rehabilitation – that was the job of other professionals. Writing for Therapy was a stepping stone for her.
A popular topic these days might be weight loss or financial issues. A marriage breaking down was happening to a student with arguments all the time. They were able to work out that the problem was not each other, but the stresses they both had and together they should shift their attention to working together on issues.
This is an outcome that was right for them. All students and situations are different. This anecdote happens to show what would be considered a positive outcome. Another outcome maybe helping someone to help themselves through a divorce. That could be positive in a different way.
How do we convert a creative word association to poetry if you have never written it poetry before?
Take a sheet of writing paper. Draw a margin down the left and right hand side.
Take ‘one’ word from your word association and start writing.
Keep your poem to the topic you have chosen.
Try to use more than one of your words.
Don’t write complete sentences – write your thoughts in short phrases.
You have a kind of poetry.
If you are Writing for Therapy it is about the subject you have chosen – not about writing perfect poetry. Creative Writing is about writing great poems. People who can write poetry so often use it as a therapeutic expression – it comes naturally to them.
I write poetry to entertain and make people laugh. That is a kind of therapy.
When teaching Writing for Therapy or Creative Writing, with the freedom of language and touching someones inner thoughts, comes responsibility. When the words are out, what do you do with any far reaching outcomes?
As a tutor you should be part of a team and know where to refer people if someone wants more help. This can be part of a plan as a result of analyzing word associations. Students should look for the resources they need to pursue a plan , and ask around. If you are writing for therapy on your own, look for resources, take action.
It’s like a shopping list of what you need to do. Resources are not always associated with the problem, but to a broader spectrum of answers.
For all of us poetry can be a meaningful tool. Reading and listening can be powerful. Make poetry a voyage of discovery. Listen to poems they can cheer you up, make you think and share empathy.
Some people only write poems when they are struggling. This is a shame – try writing positive, happy poems and reading them as well.
In most places there are poetry groups and poetry readings – an opportunity to make friends and meet people.
Poetry can be used in any rehabilitation situation or ongoing day to day living.
To write a poem you don’t need to be any sort of expert, it doesn’t even matter if you can’t spell. Launch into it. Think about lyrics for songs. Some don’t make sense but they work in their way. What is your way? Experiment if you are brave enough – share and don’t let anyone put you down. Usually they won’t.
The aim is to start – you don’t know where you might end up – it is a journey.
Try to progress from writing for therapy to writing for pleasure.
Sharing your thoughts with paper is sharing. Only if you want to, do you share your words with other people, written words can be an easy way of organising your thoughts before speaking to someone. If people shared more with someone they value or trust it would save a lot of angst. If you can’t share – seeing yourself on paper can take you further along a path.
When my group of homeless people at the day centre started to write and express themselves openly, for some of them it was the first step back into the world of education and work. They enjoyed the achievement of writing and sharing. For some that was never going to happen, but their stories have left permanent thoughts with me. We published a poetry book for them.It was a great idea but I felt we couldn’t sell it openly as some of the phrases and poems were so good I wasn’t sure if they were really theirs.
If you have a poem written for therapy or a poem you love that someone else wrote about their experiences, (with their permission), please share it in the comments.
Next week – A writing tool kit with exercises.
Writing for pleasure – my book – a wonderful means of expression and a way of life. –
What’s the difference between Creative Writing and Writing for therapy? It is one of the same in many ways.
Writing for Therapy is not directed at a market, or writing purely for pleasure, it is about using words to analyze and plan. Your words can be a basis for discussion with a friend or in a group.
Writing things down – fact or fiction can help.
Teaching Writing for Therapy is about individuals. In this introduction it is not possible to tailor it to individuals. I can’t slow down, go faster, or stop and listen. Please remember that this is an introduction.
This is about word association directly not like the creative word association in the first lesson.
Write a word you are contemplating regarding a problem then write as many words as you like, that you associate with it. It is better to write quickly rather than taking time to think. When you have your words take the word that you think is the most important one and the then the word you think is least important and do the exercise again based on these words.
You will see how you have broken a situation down into small parts. Now make at least one constructive plan based on your words. Try to write and add to a ‘can do’ something about, list of words. There are things none of us can do anything about, but look for the can do’s.
Seeing something written down and broken into small parts is all that is needed in a number of situations. A guide of a time schedule for doing things can be constructive, without being too rigid.
You can see how sharing your words should encourage others in a group or a friend or group member can add helpful comments for you. I could suggest a list of topics and situations where this exercise could be used, but that would take pages and pages. This is starting list – add more: Dieting, relationships, growing up and growing older, finances,being abused, time management etc……..
Next week it is about sharing and I will include some case histories without mentioning names.
Reading and writing fiction can take you out of yourself in the way that listening to music or doing anything creative can do. Having something written down can help focus on where to go from a starting point. Make noes can materialise into a plan over a period of time.
At the end of group Writing for Therapy sessions there is an opportunity to share and encourage, or sit in silence.
A family had financial problems. Every member wrote a creative word association then went on to write a direct association and discussed the possibilities. A plan was made. Everyone kept a diary and they were on a journey to get a grip on expenditure. Writing for Therapy was more constructive than arguing.
Writing things down can expand the picture.
Next Week – Sharing and poetry. More case histories.
There are many books written on writing for therapy, but in response to questions asked about my own experience as a Writing for Therapy Tutor I have decided to write 6 free blogs starting today and over the next 5 Wednesdays. .
Introduction followed by:
Week 1 What is the problem?
Week 2 What answers can I find through writing words?
Week 3 Sharing
Week 4 Writing tool kit, with exercises.
Week 5 Responsibility with words and creativity.
Week 6 Don’t give up writing.
Introduction of myself and the subject:
When I started writing seriously and then qualified to be a creative writing tutor, my journey into writing for therapy began.
Firstly, I realised that in teaching a creative subject much about peoples lives spilled out. It isn’t like teaching maths or history when you are dealing with presumed facts.
Secondly, there was scope for using writing alongside other resources for people looking for a hand up in life.
Thirdly, 25 years ago, it was a journey into the unknown. Now creativity in many fields is used to help people along the road of life, including Writing for Therapy.
I have worked in mental health units, at centres for homeless people, in prisons and in adult education centres.
I have been teaching: Creative Writing – communication studies and media.
Now I am retired from paid work, but I am involved in teaching Creative Writing in Sri Lanka. As a volunteer I have worked in schools for girls and teacher training. The idea is to use creative writing skills alongside English grammar and it has met with higher success rates in English as a second language, especially confidence in speaking another language. More on that another time.
Let’s get started:
Which one are you?
I can’t write as I am not creative,
I love writing, but I have not used it for therapy.
If you don’t think you can write it is not an exact subject. Give it a go and keep practicing. It is not about marks out of 10.
If you love writing, it’s a question of finding out how to add on exercises to what is already a way of life – writing for pleasure.
I’ll start with a simple exercise. But it is surprising how difficult some people find it – usually those with and a good academic brain.
1 word, add 19 more.
Lesson. Stop being exact to word numbers, but try and get imaginative.
Not a word association. Go all over the place – let creativity begin.
Write as fast as you can without thinking.
Easy for some takes longer for others.
Rainbow, blue, crisps, shops, coffee, warmth, cold, gloves, elegance, drama, T.V. stories, children, loaves of bread, cooking, mother, memories, photos, albums music .
This took approximately 20 seconds, but then I am used to doing it. Some words obviously connect for me, others not so sure why they came into my mind.
Now I have words to play with and I can go on forever taking out a word and repeating.
If your words associate too closely to the first word and you don’t go anywhere keep doing it. You might like to do the exercise with someone else, or in a group.
The purpose of the exercise – to loosen up your mind. A useful exercise before writing.
Don’t read too much into your list. We will return to it later, but not to analyse. You might find it interesting.
Please don’t think you need to be good at spelling or writing – be prepared to keep going. Share your writing or keep it to yourself – it doesn’t matter.
For writers who write – try something new to write about – check your writing has a work/life balance.
Writing for Therapy can work because it is a journey, because you can share.
No therapeutic resource is a one size fits all. I hope this introduction to writing for therapy free course, may be just one small stepping stone across the rivers of life.
Who is it for
What answers can I find through words?
I wrote a novel when early retirement from the day job gave me the chance. I write with a sense of humor because that’s what comes naturally to me. I love making up characters and stories.
Is it therapy? – Yes – it keeps me happy and interested in life. I’m not trying to overcome or deal with anything. Writing can be pure escapism. A place where you make friends and meet people – real and imagined.
Is it magical? – No – but I get a lot out of it.
My debut novel
Brenda H Sedgwick,
Author. Marriage, a Journey and a Dog. Unusual romance and comedy. Can be read on the beach with ice cream and a smile.