Integrating narrative/poetic content with the professional literature relating to trauma, the author explored how writing poetry contributed to her recovery and growth following the murder of her sister. It was concluded that writing poetry helped to reduce internal conflict and restore psychological balance. Metaphors and symbols enabled the exploration of the author’s response to trauma, which in turn led to recovery and growth.
Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2013 Oct;22(5):444-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0349.2012.00891.x. Epub 2012 Dec 5.
There is evidence that creative writing forms an important part of the recovery experience of people affected by severe mental illness. In this paper, we consider theoretical models that explain how creative writing might contribute to recovery, and we discuss the potential for creative writing in psychosocial rehabilitation. We argue that the rehabilitation benefits of creative writing might be optimized through focus on process and technique in writing, rather than content, and that consequently, the involvement of professional writers might be important. We describe a pilot workshop that deployed these principles and was well-received by participants. Finally, we make recommendations regarding the role of creative writing in psychosocial rehabilitation for people recovering from severe mental illness and suggest that the development of an evidence base regarding the effectiveness of creative writing is a priority.
Br J Health Psychol. 2008 Feb;13(Pt 1):85-93. doi: 10.1348/135910707X250866.
This study investigates the boundary conditions (feasibility, safety, and efficacy) of an expressive writing intervention for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD].
Randomized trial with baseline and 3-month follow-up measures of PTSD severity and symptoms, mood states, post-traumatic growth, and (post-only) cortisol reactivity to trauma-related stress.
Volunteers with a verified diagnosis of PTSD (N=25) were randomly assigned to an experimental group (writing about their traumatic experience) or control group (writing about time management).
Expressive writing was acceptable to patients with PTSD and appeared safe to utilize. No changes in PTSD diagnosis or symptoms were observed, but significant improvements in mood and post-traumatic growth were observed in the expressive writing group. Finally, expressive writing greatly attenuated neuroendocrine (cortisol) responses to trauma-related memories.
The present study provides insight into several boundary conditions of expressive writing. Writing did not decrease PTSD-related symptom severity. Although patients continue to exhibit the core features of PTSD, their capacity to regulate those responses appears improved following expressive writing. Dysphoric mood decreased after writing and when exposed to traumatic memories, participants’ physiological response is reduced and their recovery enhanced.