In this issue
Between two worlds
Claire Thomas misses the support of tutors and peers and opts to do further training
Sue Christy and John Bennett have transferred skills from their previous careers to build thriving private practices
Trauma: challenging the myths
Cordelia Galgut thinks we need to challenge our thinking about the psychological impact of trauma
The power of writing
Julia Bueno talks to Britain’s leading exponents of therapeutic writing, Gillie Bolton and Jeannie Wright
Games, revenge and vampires
Sandy Hutchinson Nunns explains how she integrates transactional analysis and writing therapy into her work
Data protection in private practice
Peter Jenkins guides you through the complexity of the Data Protection Act
Five tips for a prosperous and healthy life
Sally Despenser asks if you pay enough attention to your own self-care
From the chair
Wendy Halsall: A mixed time of year
From the editor
Reflecting on the title of the cover story of this issue, ‘The power of writing’, I’m reminded of an experience Jeanette Winterson writes about in her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?1 Raised in a house where a zealously Pentecostal mother viewed literature and poetry with suspicion, only six books were permitted: one of which was the Bible, and another two commentaries on the Bible.
Recalling the moment she first set her mind to becoming a writer at age 16, Winterson describes her mother’s fateful discovery of the dozens of novels she kept hidden under her mattress – books she escaped into to keep her safe from her tough life at home. Throwing them into the yard, her mother poured paraffin over them and set them alight. As she watched her precious books burn, Winterson writes that she realised something important: ‘Whatever is on the outside can be taken away at any time. Only what is inside you is safe!’ And, standing over the smouldering pile, she understood that even if she could no longer read those books, there was something else she could do: ‘F**k it,’ I thought, ‘I can write my own.’
Winterson’s conviction that creativity is on the side of health and that fiction and poetry act like medicines to mend the rupture reality makes on the imagination, is a powerful testament to the healing potential of writing. In Julia Bueno’s interview with Gillie Bolton and Jeannie Wright – two of the UK’s leading exponents of therapeutic writing and the co-authors of a new book on the subject – Bolton speaks of how writing comes from a deeper place inside us than talking: when we talk we are aware of who is listening and that words can be forgotten; however, the page accepts anything we write and it is up to us when or if to share it or read it back.
This private communication with oneself has been shown to have therapeutic potential. Studies in the 1970s in America by social psychologist James Pennebaker, for example, found that research participants asked to write about traumatic or emotional experiences for three to five sessions of 15-20 minutes each, showed significant reduction in their psychological and physical symptoms, with no one but the author reading their work.
Research in the UK into the efficacy of therapeutic writing lags far behind America, and, unlike music, dance, drama and art, writing is far from becoming an established complementary therapy and is not widely recognised in British counselling and psychotherapeutic circles. The picture is very different in The Netherlands, however, where evidence from randomised controlled trials means writing therapy is acknowledged by the Dutch Department of Health as an evidence-based treatment for psychological disorders. Maybe the same might become true in this country too some day.
To encourage you to explore the field for yourself, if you’re not already doing so, Bolton and Wright each share three writing exercises you can try and, in her complementary article psychotherapist and therapeutic life writer and lecturer Sandy Hutchison Nunns suggests some more writing exercises to experiment with. Enjoy.