This reflective piece suggests three phases from therapeutic writing to full-fledged poetry to an audience’s reading and discussion, illustrated with specific examples and commentary. The author, a social scientist, an adult educator and a published poet, begins with the role of writing in her own processing of the painful experience of a family member’s severe mental illness and suicide, showing us her earliest therapeutic writing. She then illuminates a second phase, in which she gives us an inside look at the rewriting process that led to two poems suitable for public display. She considers how the resulting poems might be used for both therapeutic and educational purposes, offering discussion prompts and questions related to the poems.
J Soc Clin Psychol. 2010 May 1;26(3):362-384.
Studies suggest that written emotional disclosure can improve health. Unknown, however, is whether the presence or absence of an audience for one’s disclosure matters, and whether time management control writing has any effects. Undergraduates (N = 165) with unresolved stress were randomized to 1 of 3 groups that wrote for 4 sessions: shared written disclosure (submitted to researchers), private written disclosure (not submitted), or time management control writing; or to a fourth group (no-writing control). At 3-month follow-up, the two control groups were equivalent on outcomes. Both shared and private disclosure resulted in less cognitive intrusion and avoidance than the combined control groups. Yet, shared disclosure reduced depression and interpersonal sensitivity more than either private disclosure or the control groups, and only shared disclosure reduced physical symptoms. Although truly private writing improves cognitive stress effects, shared writing has broader benefits, suggesting that social disclosure for one’s writing matters.