Community writing as a learning experience

Pages 107-113 | Published online: 10 Nov 2010

This brief report examines community writing as part of a community arts programme at The Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) Food Depot in Montreal. We chose the locale of a food bank because we wanted to improve the life-coping mechanisms of food recipients and to empower them, through the arts, to have the self-confidence to join the mainstream of society.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0889-3670310001596266

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Using Expressive Writing to Explore Thoughts and Beliefs about Cancer and Treatment among Chinese American Immigrant Breast Cancer Survivors

Psychooncology. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Nov 1.
Published in final edited form as:
Psychooncology. 2016 Nov; 25(11): 1371–1374.

Published online 2015 Sep 25. doi:  10.1002/pon.3991

Qian Lu, Ph.D., M.D.,1 Nelson C. Y. Yeung, M.Phil.,1 Jin You, Ph.D.,2 and Jiajie Dai, M.S.1

Adapting narrative exposure therapy for Chinese earthquake survivors: a pilot randomised controlled feasibility study.

BMC Psychiatry. 2014 Oct 3;14:262. doi: 10.1186/s12888-014-0262-3.

Zang Y1,2, Hunt N3, Cox T4,5.

Narrative exposure therapy (NET) is a brief, manualised treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It has been shown to have therapeutic benefits for a wide range of individuals and settings. This study, following our previous work applying the original NET in earthquake survivors, aimed to revise NET to be adaptable for treating PTSD after a natural disaster.

METHODS:

A randomised waiting-list controlled study was conducted with 30 adult participants with PTSD who were randomly allocated to NET (n = 10), revised NET (NET-R; n = 10) or a waiting list condition (WL; n = 10). Participants in NET and NET-R received treatment immediately; those in the WL condition received NET-R treatment after a waiting period. All groups were assessed on PTSD, general distress, anxiety, depression, social support, coping and posttraumatic change before and after treatment and three-month follow-up.

RESULTS:

Compared with WL, both NET and NET-R groups showed significant reductions in PTSD and related symptoms. Significant increases were found in posttraumatic growth, active coping and perceived social support. The WL group showed similar improvements after treatment. Further reductions on PTSD symptoms were found at three months, showing that NET-R is as effective as the original NET in treating post-earthquake traumatic symptoms in adult Chinese earthquake survivors.

CONCLUSIONS:

NET-R is a feasible and cost-effective intervention for Chinese earthquake survivors. Further studies are needed to replicate these findings in other survivor populations, and with larger samples and over longer periods. This study highlighted the value of oral narrative approach, which is well-accepted and useful in the context of single natural disaster and lower- income area.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4189751/

Capturing the Experience: Reflections of Women With Breast Cancer Engaged in an Expressive Writing Intervention.

Cancer Nurs. 2016 Jul-Aug;39(4):E51-60. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000300.

Gripsrud BH1, Brassil KJ, Summers B, Søiland H, Kronowitz S, Lode K.

Expressive writing has been shown to improve quality of life, fatigue, and posttraumatic stress among breast cancer patients across cultures. Understanding how and why the method may be beneficial to patients can increase awareness of the psychosocial impact of breast cancer and enhance interventional work within this population. Qualitative research on experiential aspects of interventions may inform the theoretical understanding and generate hypotheses for future studies.

AIM:

The aim of the study was to explore and describe the experience and feasibility of expressive writing among women with breast cancer following mastectomy and immediate or delayed reconstructive surgery.

METHODS:

Seven participants enrolled to undertake 4 episodes of expressive writing at home, with semistructured interviews conducted afterward and analyzed using experiential thematic analysis.

RESULTS:

Three themes emerged through analysis: writing as process, writing as therapeutic, and writing as a means to help others.

CONCLUSIONS:

Findings illuminate experiential variations in expressive writing and how storytelling encourages a release of cognitive and emotional strains, surrendering these to reside in the text. The method was said to process feelings and capture experiences tied to a new and overwhelming illness situation, as impressions became expressions through writing. Expressive writing, therefore, is a valuable tool for healthcare providers to introduce into the plan of care for patients with breast cancer and potentially other cancer patient groups.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:

This study augments existing evidence to support the appropriateness of expressive writing as an intervention after a breast cancer diagnosis. Further studies should evaluate its feasibility at different time points in survivorship.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26390074

Meaning of reflective writing

There is growing evidence that resolution of trauma (or its smaller cousin, stress) requires somatic (body) involvement. The reflection write develops the habit of checking in with the embodied experience of writing, a good gauge of how your nervous system is processing the writing.

(p. 45).

When you are present to what emerges on the page by reading what you have just written and writing a few sentences about what you notice, you are developing an observational part of your brain. You are gaining separation from the write itself and taking note of both the process of writing as well as any insights that the writing yielded. What happened in my body as I wrote? Did my handwriting change? Was there a smile on my face or tears in my eyes? Were there any “aha” moments? Paying attention, cultivating curiosity and noticing what emerges as a function of the process of writing is similar to meditation practices that cultivate concentration and invite insight.

(pp. 45-46).

The reflection write is the consummate expressive writing tool for focused attention.

(p. 46).

The reflection write is an exercise in the process of paying attention, particularly if curiosity and compassion are brought to that process. Reflection supports the process of choosing to fire circuits that over time will change our brains in service of greater healing—and, likely, the authorship of a more integrated, coherent story.

(pp. 46-48).

from “Your Brain on Ink”