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The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction. 2. Therapeutic writing: How and why: The healing pen 3. Keeping a journal: `The diamonds of the dustheap'. 4. Writing openers: Unbuttoning, opening the box. 5. Images: How to find, create and use them - Echoes. 6. Dreams which put us in touch with ourselves: `The royal road'. 7. The power of poetry, fiction, autobiography: `Something hatches'. 8. Waiting to help you take control of your own life: This is my decision! 9. Writing and groups: Laugh and cry with each other. 10. Writing out trauma: A bobble hat, a pair of jeans, and Grandad. 11. Writing at the doctor's, the hospital, the hospice: Writing on prescription. 12. Writing in prison, the old people's home: `Reach for the stars'. 13. Approaches to therapeutic writing: `But who are you?' 14. Conclusions: `Thought made flesh'. Appendix: Useful contact addresses. Bibliography. Index.

About the Author

Gillie Bolton is Research Fellow in Medical Humanities at Sheffield University Institute of General Practice. She has trained doctors, nurses and counsellors to offer therapeutic writing to their clients for ten years, as well as working with patients herself. She writes extensively about her work, and is an award-winning poet.

Reviews

Occasionally I have suggested to parents that they write down some of their thoughts and feelings in the form of a journal or a letter. Nearly always the act of writing seems to have a curious therapeutic effect. Thanks to Gillie Bolton's book, I shall be doing this more often. Gillie believes that while it is good to talk, it is even better to write. She teaches therapeutic writing to doctors, nurses, clients, prisoners, just about anybody who is interested...I am certainly going to do some therapeutic writing myself now and then, when I am ready, I shall suggest it to some of my troubled patients. If you read this book (and I think you should), you will want to be doing it too. -- Family Practice
This is a bubbling cauldron of a book. I doubt if I have ever felt so driven to follow an author's enthusiasm to try out her ideas. Just take a sheet of paper and a favourite pen, she says, and for six minutes write whatever comes to mind. So I did, and what happened surprised me, because I hadn't really thought much of the notion. Gillie Bolton runs creative writing courses, and counsels and works as a therapist. She is convinced that writing is a true, gentle and accessible way for anyone to express themselves and that this can lead on to new understanding through rereading and perhaps revising the writing. She shows how the slowing down of thoughts to the pace of a pencil is an editing process that helps order ideas out of the internal chaos, but not one that stultifies subconscious experience from leaking out...We are shown how to get started and allow people to feel that it is not only safe but that it might also be fun, to let their pens flow across the page. Examples are given of therapeutic writing groups in prisons, hospices, among demented patients and the mentally ill, for such groups can thrive in surprising settings. Gillie Bolton runs writing groups for GP's and makes the case that, instead of a prescription, doctors could offer certain patients a pen and a blank sheet of paper and then be willing to read whatever they might write. -- The British Journal of General Practice
Gillie Bolton states that she has aimed this book at those of us, including therapists, who are interested in using creative writing as a way in which we can get to know ourselves better. The author says that the book is a `straight-forward how-to guide to therapeutic writing' and that it `offers endlessly creative questions and tantalising paths to follow'...for those therapists interested in using creative writing for themselves or with their clients, this book may provide inspiration. -- British Journal of Occupational Psychology
The book offers explicit guidance on how to engage in, and how to help others engage in, therapeutic writing. But it also offers insight into why such writing is effective as a healing agent...Bolton's books will be invaluable to a wide range of mental health workers and human potential practitioners and to people seeking a means of addressing their own suffering and aspirations for self-understanding and self-expression...an excellent addition to the reading lists of counsellor training courses, especially in connection with personal development components. Not to be missed, either, is the potential for this kind of therapy to be added to the creative repertoire of practitioners needing to maximise therapeutic benefits in a short time by stimulating client ownership of the therapeutic process. -- British Journal of Guidance and Counselling
Creative writing may seem at first glance to be a long way from nurse education, but this would be a mistaken judgement. Gillie Bolton is a published poet who has worked with a range of those who work in health care - clients, students and experienced practitioners - to develop their skills in writing for themselves. Creative writing offers a process of self-exploration which is under the control of the writer and which promotes self-healing. Her book offers ideas and inspiration whichever hat you choose to wear. All of us have sore places in personal and professional lives which are easy to ignore much of the time, but which can pop up unexpectedly and cause trouble. Nurse educators may need to revisit difficult times in their own career, and creative writing offers an easily accessible and confidential way to do this. Those wishing to find new ways of encouraging students to write diaries which are reflective in reality as well as in name will find new approaches in this book. Educators may also be stimulated to consider the ethics of the assessment of reflective diaries by comparison with the standards of a different discipline. Finally there are specific areas of health care in which creative writing can be of particular help to clients - palliative care, care of the elderly and mental health are three which feature in this book. Gillie Bolton emphasises that creative writing can not take people any further than they wish to go - unlike therapeutic talk which can sometimes result in both client and nurse getting out of their depth. Nurses who use this tool to help their patients heal themselves should therefore be careful how they discuss what has been written. Above all, those who encourage others to write creatively should first try it. So buy this book- but be warned, it can be addictive! -- Elizabeth R Perkins MA PhD Cert Ed
Many people find that writing their thoughts down is therapeutic. It can clarify the vague ideas and feelings wandering around in one's head and illuminate them. I can highly recommend a new book that helps with this process: The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself. The author, Gillie Bolton, is research fellow in medical humanities at Sheffield University Institute of General Practice and an award-winning poet. She works with groups, which include health professionals, as a faclilitator. Members of the groups have found it life enhancing, healing and nurturing to express themselves in this way. Many have introduced patients, clients and students to it. Her book explores the potential of writing as therapy in a straightforward `how to' guide. It explores the use of journal writing, fiction and poetry and is full of practical ideas. -- Dr Moira Brimacombe, Sheffield
The book is eminently practical. It provides a wide range of valuable suggestions for working with clients, with groups, and for working on one's own. It is also clearly written...I would highly recommend this book as being useful, accessible and above all, written with compassion. -- Dr Christina Mason, St Josephs Hospice, London

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