Writing to Promote Wellbeing

I have written poems for a number of years and have found poetry provides a frame for an intense and focused kind of journaling. The compact nature of the form forces me to go directly to my feelings, and helps me to create imagery which adds colour and depth to my experiences. If I were so inclined, I could probably produce several anthologies of poetry I have written during my own therapy. As my writing has developed I also find myself writing nonsense poetry and children’s rhymes – finding fun and silliness in the meaningless and absurd.

These are not poems intended for publication, but for myself; sometimes I share my writing with friends and family, or a writing group I attend, but essentially I write for me. It is a part of my self-care. I take great joy in the craft of poetry and reading the work of others. I particularly adore the poetry of Spike Milligan. As well as his famous nonsense children’s verse, Spike wrote movingly about his deep struggles with his mental health. Below is perhaps one of the most poignant poems I have ever read on the subject of mental health:

Manic depression 

The pain is too much
A thousand grim winters
   grow in my head
In my ears
    the sound of the
    coming dead.
All Seasons
All Sane
All Living
All Pain.
No opiate to lock still
     my senses
Only left,
   The body locked tenses.

Spike Milligan, St Luke’s Hospital, Psychiatric Wing, 1953/54

The words of this poem have always stuck with me, evoking as they do a torturous struggle and an intense loneliness which feels ever starker in the poem’s sparsity.

An increasing number of therapeutic practitioners are actively using therapeutic writing in their practice. I have recently become a member of Lapidus, a writing for wellbeing organisation, and I see the subject gaining traction both in literature and in practice. I have attended workshops both to participate and to learn more about the benefits and uses of writing in a therapeutic setting. The network is growing and that’s really pleasing to see.

Poetry also allows me to connect with the therapeutic world at an experiential level, digging below theory and practicalities and exploring the personal meanings which emerge for me in becoming a therapist. Earlier this year, I was honoured to see my poetry poster win the McGraw Hill prize for ‘Inspirational Poster’ at the 9th Annual Conference for Psychological Therapies and Mental Health at Leeds Beckett University.

The connection and depth of feeling which can be communicated in poetry is one of the reasons I believe creative writing can provide such a powerful tool for communication in the counselling room, particularly when working with clients who find verbal disclosure and exploration of feelings overwhelming. The use of metaphor, as with art therapy, can also contribute to making exploration feel safer.

I wish to learn more about the benefits of writing therapy for vulnerable client groups, in different settings and therapeutic contexts, individually, in groups and more. I feel that this burgeoning branch of therapy can only continue to blossom and seed.



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