Even before this Coronavirus pandemic, word about the therapeutic value of writing was spreading around the globe, as a growing number of people became aware of its value as a transformative and life-enhancing pursuit. After the testing times we’ve all been through more and more individuals are turning to therapeutic writing to improve their wellbeing and resilience.
Why writing is therapeutic
Expressing our feelings on the page can help us manage them, crafting a poem can provide a container for our fears; writing can be a pleasure and a distraction, and in these days of isolation, a way of connecting. The research of James Pennebaker and others has shown that expressive writing can have multiple benefits for mental and also physical health.
The Professional Writing Academy’s online Introduction to Therapeutic and Reflective Writing course, which I co-direct with writer and poetry therapist Victoria Field, has seen over 200 participants from nearly 30 countries around the globe pass through its portal.
Students come together in small groups of no more than 12 in our forums to experience the power of reading and writing poems, of expressive writing and journal writing, of exploring memories through life-writing and of sharing and bearing witness in groups.
We have found that far from being a drawback, connecting in a virtual space has more often than not brought deeper personal connections between participants, affording more time for reflection than a face-to-face group.
– Anne Taylor
How group writing benefits wellbeing
Many of our alumni go on to share their passion for words for wellbeing with others, and some have joined a growing global tribe of practitioners who are using writing for wellbeing with groups and individuals. Connecting in a virtual space has more often than not brought deeper personal connections between participants, affording more time for reflection than a face-to-face group.
In the face of another lockdown over the past couple of weeks, a number of these have taken to running groups online and are sharing prompts and ideas for writing using social media and online conferencing platforms like Zoom.
Amanda White, a writer and group facilitator in Cornwall, set up a page on Facebook where people can share a daily Haiku. The response to this project has been overwhelming as people find distraction and a sense of play and satisfaction in crafting three simple lines of poetry to share with an online community. The page already has almost five thousand members.
Express yourself through writing
The next iterations of Introduction to Therapeutic and Reflective Writing and its sister course Running Writing Workshops will start soon, and in these turbulent times, Victoria and I feel that our work in spreading the word about the therapeutic value of creative writing is more important than ever. Come and join us online!