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Therapeutic Writing Resources

– Therapeutic Writing Resources –

Did you know that writing offers healing benefits to those who use it consciously as a means of self-therapy? If you’re interested in learning about the emerging field of therapeutic writing, also known as developmental creative writing, expressive writing, and writing for wellness, here are just a few of our favourite therapeutic writing resources to get you started.

Therapeutic writing resources
Therapeutic Writing Resources: Resources About Therapeutic Writing

1. Forming a Story: The Health Benefits of Narrative
James W. Pennebaker
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1999
Read the full paper online.

“Writing about important personal experiences in an emotional way for as little as 15 minutes over the course of three days brings about improvements in mental and physical health.”

2. Mystery to Mastery: An Exploration of What Happens in the Black Box of Writing and Healing
Reinekke Lengell and Frans Meijers
Journal of Poetry Therapy, 2009

“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.'”

3. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends
Michael White and David Epston
W. W. Norton, 1990

“We believe that the written tradition contributes an extra dimension to our work with persons who experience troublesome problems.”

4. On Writing the Self and Vulnerability
Reinekke Lengelle
Writing the Self, 2017
Read the article.

“As we write, we can massage and restory pain into a kind of humanity that makes it easier for us and for others to breathe, to say, to open, and therefore to become.”

5. Opening Up by Writing it Down
James W. Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth
The Guilford Press, 2016

“Expressive writing has been used to treat a variety of physical health problems as well as mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder.”

6. The Self on the Page
Celia Hunt and Fiona Sampson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1998

“The act of placing oneself and one’s experiences on the page in fictional form can be a means to self-engagement and self-understanding.”

7. Transformative Learning Through Creative Life Writing
Celia Hunt
Routledge, 2013

“Creative writing that uses fictional and poetic techniques to capture self-experience, including physical and emotional experience, personal memories, and present and past relations with others.”

8. Who Am I? Writing to Find Myself
Kathleen McNichol
Journal of Arts and Humanities
Read the full paper online.

“Through a conscious self reflective writing effort, I have found insights and meanings I missed in my initial efforts.”

9. Writing About Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process
James W. Pennebaker
Psychological Science, 2013
Read the full paper online.

“Confronting deeply personal issues has been found to promote physical health, subjective well-being, and selected adaptive behaviors.”

10. Writing and Healing: Toward an Informed Practice
Charles Anderson and Marian MacCurdy
National Council of Teachers of English, 2000
The full text of this book is now open access and available for free download.

“We expect poets to write of loss, because poets, after all, have license to do such things, but others become quiet, even at times mute, and need help to speak of their grief.”

11. Writing to Heal the Soul
Susan Zimmermann
Three River Press, 2002

“The act of writing brings a structure and order to the chaos of grief. It taps into the healing power of your own unconscious. By giving voice to fears, anger and despair, by letting go of old dreams and hopes, our self-healing powers come into play. The soul knows what it needs to heal. Through writing, it will lead you where you need to go.”

Therapeutic writing resources

1. If You Want to Write
Brenda Ueland
Martino Publishing, 2011, 1938

“Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”

2. Narrative Medicine
Rita Charon
Oxford University Press, 2006

“We are developing useful approaches to medicine, to literature, and to suffering.”

3. Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice
Linda Trichter Metcalf and Tobin Simon
Random House, 2002
Learn about the proprioceptive method of writing at the PW Center website.

“Proprioceptive writing changed the way I think and listen to myself, and as a result it changed the way I heard others.”

4. How To Go Forest Bathing (+ why it makes you healthier & happier)
Bertie Cowen
Effortless Outdoors, 2021
Learn about the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) at the Effortless Outdoors website.

“When we immerse ourselves in a natural landscape, we can feel our body relax into where it’s meant to be..”

Therapeutic writing resources proprioceptive writing
Therapeutic Writing Resources: Examples of Therapeutic Writing in Practice

1. An Unquiet Mind
Kay Redfield Jamison
Vintage Books, 1996

“I was running fast, but slowly going mad.”

2. Cancer in Two Voices
Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum
Spinsters Book Company, 1991

” I am trying to live self-consciously (and perhaps die self-consciously) in an exemplary manner. Many of my friends will see their future in the way I handle mine.”

3. Finding Poetry in Illness
Jennifer Nix
Poetry Foundation, 2012
This essay is available on the Poetry Foundation’s website.

“As I stared down mortality, I craved contact with something beyond the self.”

4. It’s About Time: Narrative and the Divided Self
Arthur P. Bochner
Qualitative Inquiry, 1997
Read the full paper online.

“What I remember best about that weekend in Tampa, right after my father died, was how hard I struggled to explain my father to myself.”

5. Telling and Performing Personal Stories: The Constraints of Choice in Abortion
Carolyn Ellis and Arthur P. Bochner
Investigating Subjectivity, 1992

“The act of telling a personal story is a way of giving voice to experiences that are shrouded in secrecy.”

6. The Rape Poems
Francis Driscoll
Pleasure Boat Studio, 1997
Listen to all the poems free on Spotify.

“I remember this. This forgetting of ways to move. What was left of that night, I could only crawl.”

7. The Reflexive Self Through Narrative: A Night in the Life of an Erotic Dancer/Researcher
Carol Rambo Ronai
Investigating Subjectivity, 1992

“Listen to my voice; it is a blend of many voices. I am a graduate student, a wife, a daughter, an erotic dancer, a friend; the quantity of potential identities extend into infinity.”

8. There Are Survivors: Telling a Story of Sudden Death
Carolyn Ellis
The Sociological Quarterly, 1993
Read the full paper online.

“Flashes of lightening go off behind my eyes. My breathing speeds up, yet I am suffocating.”

9. Through, Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss
Edited by: Allison McDonald Ace, Caroline Starr, Ariel Ng Bourbonnais
Dundurn Press, 2018

“This collection offers personal stories about what it’s like to go through the emotional and physical facets of infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss: the pain, sadness, and desperation, the hope, humour, and frustration.”

10. Too Far From The Shore
Richard Hunt
Organization and Environment, 1999

“I suppose I sensed her movement somewhere in front of me just before the overcast night began to brighten into morning.”

11. Wild Geese
Mary Oliver
Atlantic Monthly, 1986
Listen to Mary Oliver reading her poem, “Wild Geese.”

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination.”

Therapeutic writing resources

Check out our gallery of healing writing prompts.

Read more about therapeutic writing with these articles: “Writing Therapy: Healing with Words,” and “Why Therapeutic Writing.”

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*This article was updated on February 25, 2021.