This article offers an expansion of the poetry writing and research featured in “Culturally Responsive Poetry” published in the Journal of Poetry Therapy in 2011. In this article, a follow up to the coeducational poetry pilot is provided through the experiences of African American adolescent girl poets. “Writing in Solidarity: The Lived Experience of African American Adolescent Girls Writing Poetry” is the outcome of an in-depth phenomenological research study exploring the lived experience of eight African American female high school students participating in an after school poetry group. The process of writing in solidarity is one of call and response that evokes a sense of understanding and concern for one’s self, poetry group members and community. Through this writing process, a sense of sisterhood is forged for the adolescent girls and the power of individual and collective naming (to call forth one’s own identity or identities) uncovered.
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of Pennebaker’s ‘Expressive Writing’ paradigm as an adjunct to psychological therapy or as a self-help therapeutic intervention. Research, thus far, has predominantly focused on measuring, explaining and analysing the effects of ‘Expressive Writing’ as a therapeutic intervention through randomised controlled trials, paying little attention to the subjective experience of the individuals and the types of narratives people write. This doctoral research approaches ‘Expressive Writing’ from a narrative perspective, which argues that individuals construct their sense of self and create meaning of their own lives through the use of narratives. The aim of this thesis is to explore how people construct their sense of self through ‘Expressive Writing’. Following an adapted version of Pennebaker’s ‘Expressive Writing’ guidelines, six participants were asked to spend 50 to 60 minutes writing about an emotional life-changing event and then share their stories, and their experience of writing about their stories, in an hour-long interview. The study used qualitative methods of inquiry, namely narrative analyses to explore the process of the construction of sense of self in both the written and oral narratives. The emerged findings point to the natural tendency of people to write in a narrative form using culturally available narratives and highlight the dialogical nature of the intervention. Findings are discussed in terms of implications for Counselling Psychology practice, their contribution to theory, and suggestions for future research. Overall, this thesis suggests that Expressive Writing could be a valuable addition to Counselling Psychology practice, when used in line with the ethos and values of Counselling Psychology.