Thinking OT

Thoughts from Harrison Training and the occupational therapy world

Posts Tagged ‘writing

Creative Writing As A Therapeutic Intervention – An Introduction

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Picture accredited with thanks, to Pingu1963 Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier posts have started to touch upon the idea of art as a vehicle for therapeutic intervention.

Writing can work as such an intervention, bringing many benefits to clients such as;

  • Creating and expressing meaning
  • Developing ideas
  • Experimenting with new perspectives
  • Self esteem
  • Building trust within a group through sharing writing.

There are many more advantages but the above illustrate a few of the areas where profound change can be seen.

When we write, and particularly if we are writing a creative or fictional piece, then we give ourselves room in which we can say whatever we want.  Much writing is thought to be semi-autobiographical.  That is no bad thing for our purposes.  By encouraging and enabling creative writing we can create an outlet for clients to explore ideas or emotions that they might otherwise not feel able to.

Perhaps a client is anxious about causing offence, or revisiting an area that has been addressed many times before.  By creating and developing characters within a creative piece  the client can then explore and work through ideas using those characters as the protagonists.  There is no reason why a client could not set up dissenting perspectives between two characters within the one story.

The self-esteem that can be derived from having created a piece of writing is incredibly rewarding.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.

Furthermore by carefully encouraging authors to read out, or otherwise share, their writing, it will be possible to see trust grow within groups.

I have already touched upon the core need for us all to be able to create and express meaning in our lives here.  Creative writing is such an obvious way to do so that it is easily overlooked.  Many of us, for example, will not have done any creative writing since leaving school.  Perhaps we ourselves should take up creative writing and not just leave it in the intervention tool box.

As an aside there is an element of storytelling theory that states that communication works on two planes, namely the plane of experience and the plane of meaning.

The former is our collection of perceptions and experiences.  This shapes how we communicate what has happened, or is happening, to us – essentially how we tell the story.

How we tell the story, namely the meaning that we give to it, can reflect back and retrospectively shape the plane of experience.

Let me give you an example.

A mother, let’s call her Alice, overhears another couple of mothers gossipping about Alice and her sick young child.  She overhears them talking about her, how she is not coping and needs help. They do not know that Alice is stood nearby and can overhear all that they say.  Alice is furious that these other parents have nothing better to do than talk about her and her son.  She goes home, distressed, and recounts the situation to her husband who, subsequently shares her indignation and anger.  He resolves to sort this out right away…

Here the experience has shaped the story-telling.  The experience is then passed on and shared.

Now, let’s try that again, with the same events, but with different meanings attributed to them.

A mother, let’s call her Alice, hears a couple of other mothers talking about her and everything that she does for her sick child.  Between them they are trying to think if there is anything that they can do to help lighten the load, for a short while at least.  They do not know that Alice is stood nearby.  Alice is surprised that other parents had realised just how much extra she had to do in caring for Joel and is touched, even a little embarrassed, that they should find her efforts as a mother to be remarkable.  She goes home, feeling emotional and confides in her husband…

Here the meaning that has been attributed to the same events is radically changed within the retelling.  As a result, the story telling has totally changed the experience not only for the listener or reader, but for the story teller as well.

If you are attending the Creative Writing as a Therapeutic Intervention course on 10th February then please let us know how you feel you might be able to implement these approaches in your work.

If you are already working with writing, whether journalling, or creative writing, then again please let us know what your experiences are.

Neil Denny

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Beauty and Art in OT

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In my first post I commented on the BAOT quote from Octavia Hill which stated;

“‘The poor should never be denied beauty.’

I ranted there about the judgments and relationships that such a comment represents, although I recognise that socially altruistic benefactors could get away with that kind of thing back then.

I want to look now at the choice of the word “Beauty” and what that means to the profession.  It is clear that the BAOT feel it applies or else they would not have chosen this quote.

The word “Beauty” itself can usher in subjective judgments, the eye of the beholder and all that, but I think that if we reduce it down to a very base meaning then it becomes more universal.

Let me give an example.  When I was speaking to colleagues here at Harrison Training about this, we felt that beauty could apply to several areas of what we do, including beauty of movement.  We are not necessarily talking about high-art concepts of balletic motion, but simply movement with function.

There is a request, for example, on the BAOT page on Facebook, for help on one handed hairwashing.  Now, the act of hairwashing itself is of course utterly urbane, but the enabling and delivery of this functional movement would be a beautiful thing for that client.

Beauty can also apply to the central notion of occupation, that sense of experiencing time as being useful or with meaning.

I suspect it was originally used in an artistic sense also, namely that beauty and art are synonymous. 

While Octavia Hill was talking about access to beauty and art as being the end goal the profession has moved forward.  Art is an integral part of our intervention tool kit, enabling our clients to create meaning and expression.

I am mindful of the use of various art mediums as intervention;

  • writing both, journalling and creative;
  • visual art;
  • physical art; and
  • musical and percussive art.

That creation of meaning and expression is central to our condition.  Just look to today’s news of the ongoing research into using scans of brain activity to enable communication with coma patients.  Consider, in particular, this excerpt;

“It is lawful to allow patients in a permanent vegetative state to die by withdrawing all treatment, but if a patient showed they could respond it would not be, even if they made it clear that was what they wanted.”

So, beauty, art and the creation of meaning and expression. 

On the other hand, we might all be so busy that the concept of beauty bears no relation to our day to day work?  Your thoughts?

Neil Denny

Written by harrisontraining

February 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm