Writing our way to Taíno spirituality: Finding a sense of self

Pages 21-39 | Published online: 04 Mar 2009

Taíno spirituality conceals a strong image of the feminine as counterpart of the male. The Feminine is a luminous icon that does not want to be imagined but experienced. The tradition speaks of a union that integrates our humanness. In this article, it is shown how 11 Dominican women used Embodied Writing (EW) to recreate their experiences of the Goddess. EW is an invitation to write using all the senses—perceptual, visceral, sensorimotor, kinesthetic, and imaginal—so the readers’ senses can vibrate empathically when they read or listen to our narration. Participants developed alternative ways of knowing through a wide range of rituals and EW exercises. We examined the impact of such practices on our self-perception, spiritual growth, and personal empowerment.


Writing therapy using new technologies—the art of blogging

Pages 41-45 | Published online: 04 Mar 2009

Using a blog as a form of journaling is becoming increasingly common. With email we are familiar with the phenomenon of responding rapidly and emotionally. In the blogging world, the same phenomenon may take place. While this type of immediate cathartic release may be similar to placing words on the pages of a journal, the aftermath that follows the use of blogging as journaling may be experienced much differently. The authors discuss the line between a self-help experience, a cathartic and possibly therapeutic intervention, and concern for the person who may be revealing too much. The therapist can prepare the client for feelings of empowerment, relief, and even exhilaration. They can also prepare for the risks, such as feelings of vulnerability, exposure, and possibly being re-traumatized. That the therapist may also want to establish boundaries within the therapeutic relationship about a client’s blog is also discussed.

Mystery to mastery: An exploration of what happens in the black box of writing and healing

Pages 57-75 | Published online: 26 Jun 2009

In this article, a model of transformation-through-writing will be introduced that helps to explain how a transformative and dialogical-learning process occurs when narratives or poetry are used for healing. We focus in particular on how a “boundary experience” is processed—or how a painful “first story” can be rewritten to become a more life-giving “second story.” We propose that this occurs stepwise in four cognitive stages: sensing; sifting; focusing; and understanding. These stages are explained and underpinned by research on neurobiology, neuropsychology, and on identity learning. The case study used to illustrate this process, focuses on expressive and reflective writing in emotional recovery from domestic violence. To be effective, therapeutic writing requires a safe and enriching learning environment; we discuss how such an environment supports the dialogical self and what considerations a facilitator might take into account when working with a student or client.


Health psychology and writing: an introduction.

J Health Psychol. 2009 Mar;14(2):158-60. doi: 10.1177/1359105308100199.

Murray M1.

There has been substantial empirical research on the health benefits of expressive writing. However, there has been less psychological research on the broader nature of writing and its relationship with health. The aim of this special section is to promote a more extensive engagement between health psychology and writing. It includes three articles on the value of investigating more established forms of writing, the nature of creative writing and the value of an intensive analysis of written accounts of illness. This article introduces this special section.


Beyond expressive writing: evolving models of developmental creative writing.

J Health Psychol. 2009 Mar;14(2):171-80. doi: 10.1177/1359105308100201.

Nicholls S1.

Pennebaker’s expressive writing paradigm has helped to introduce the benefits of writing to health care. However, research in expressive writing has been largely dominated by an experimental and quantitative approach that does not take into account critical methodologies and approaches in health psychology, the increasingly complex ways in which creative writing is now being used in health care settings or recent research in the broader field of creative writing and personal development, health and well-being (developmental creative writing). This article contrasts expressive writing theories and methodologies with those evolving in the relatively new field of developmental creative writing. It investigates a number of theoretical and methodological problems with the expressive writing model and argues for a more critical approach to future research.


Linguistic Predictors of Mindfulness in Written Self-Disclosure Narratives.

J Lang Soc Psychol. 2009 Sep;28(3):281-296. Epub 2009 Jan 5.

Moore SD1, Brody LR1.

This study investigated whether relative changes in cognitive, emotion, temporal, and self-reference word frequencies in repeated narratives predicted improvements in mindfulness skills (i.e., nonjudgmental acceptance of present-moment experiences, observing and describing present stimuli, and acting with awareness) subsequent to narrative self-disclosure. Participants wrote repeated narratives of traumatic or daily events over 3 days. Mindfulness was assessed at baseline and 4 to 8 weeks posttask. Results indicated that relative increases in cognitive processing words (among traumatic events participants and women in both conditions) and present tense words (among all participants) significantly predicted increases in nonjudgmental acceptance, describing, or overall mindfulness. Increases in present tense words appeared to partially mediate the higher mindfulness outcomes of participants writing about daily events when compared with those writing about trauma. The findings suggest that linguistic changes in self-disclosure narratives are associated with improvements in specific mindfulness skills.



Mindfulness and experiential avoidance as predictors and outcomes of the narrative emotional disclosure task.

J Clin Psychol. 2009 Sep;65(9):971-88. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20600.

Moore SD1, Brody LR, Dierberger AE.

This randomized study examined whether narrative emotional disclosure improves mindfulness, experiential avoidance, and mental health, and how baseline levels of and changes in mindfulness and experiential avoidance relate to mental health. Participants (N=233) wrote repeated traumatic (experimental condition) or unemotional daily events narratives (control condition). Regression analyses showed neither condition nor gender effects on mental health or experiential avoidance at a 1-month follow-up, although the control condition significantly increased in one component of mindfulness. Decreased experiential avoidance (across conditions) and increased mindfulness (in the experimental condition) significantly predicted improved mental health. Narrative disclosure thus did not improve outcomes measured here. However, increasing mindfulness when writing narratives with traumatic content, and decreasing experiential avoidance regardless of writing content, was associated with improved mental health.


The moderating role of autonomy and control on the benefits of written emotion expression.

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2009 Mar;35(3):351-64. doi: 10.1177/0146167208328165.

Weinstein N1, Hodgins HS.

Two studies examined the hypothesis that relative to control motivation, autonomy motivation is associated with effective written expression and regulation, leading to positive emotional, physical, and cognitive outcomes over time. Participants viewed a Hiroshima-Nagasaki documentary in each of two sessions. Study 1 showed that dispositionally autonomous participants, particularly those who expressed, had positive well-being, energy, and memory after the second viewing. Study 2 explored benefits of situational motivation by priming autonomy and control. Results showed that dispositionally controlled individuals received the same benefits as autonomous individuals only when primed with autonomy and encouraged to express. Coding of writing content revealed that the benefits of autonomy were mediated by nondefensive and effective emotional processing, as reflected in greater use of self-referencing and cognitive mechanism words and lower use of concrete words. Results support the expectation that autonomy relates to effective expression and emotion regulation, leading to positive functioning over time.


A randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of writing as a self-help intervention for traumatic injury patients at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

Behav Res Ther. 2009 Jan;47(1):6-12. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.10.006. Epub 2008 Oct 17.

Bugg A1, Turpin G, Mason S, Scholes C.

The study investigated the effects of writing and self-help information on severity of psychological symptoms in traumatic injury patients at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients attending Accident and Emergency (A & E), were screened for Acute Stress Disorder and randomised to an information control group (n=36) or a writing and information group (n=31). Participants in both groups received an information booklet one-month post-injury. Participants in the writing group also wrote about emotional aspects of their trauma during three 20-min sessions, five to six weeks post-injury. Psychological assessments were completed within one month and at three and six months post-injury. There were significant improvements on measures of anxiety, depression and PTSD over time. Differences between groups on these measures were not statistically significant. However, subjective ratings of the usefulness of writing were high. In conclusion, the results do not currently support the use of writing as a targeted early intervention technique for traumatic injury patients at risk of developing PTSD.