Creative Writing as a Therapeutic Intervention: A Reflection on a Training Course

I attended a training course at the University of Huddersfield yesterday, actually called “Yoga for Creativity”. As much as the course was demonstrating how yoga techniques can enhance well-being, the facilitator asked us to explore how to use creative and meditative writing as a means of therapeutic intervention. The basis of this reflection is how creative and meditative writing can be applied in  mental health settings as a therapeutic intervention, and a further reflection will be written exploring Yoga as a therapeutic intervention.

The first exercise which the facilitator asked the group to engage in really excited me as I started to think that this is an intervention that could be utilised within my practice. The activity was taken from Goldberg (1986) where writing is used as a ‘timed exercise’. The facilitator asked us to:

  1. Write continuously for 10 minutes 
  2. To keep our hands moving with no pauses in writing
  3. No crossing out
  4. Forget the rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar
  5. Lose control, don’t think and forget logic
  6. Go for the jugular (don’t be afraid to dive right into writing that exposes our feelings or makes us feel naked)

After the allocated 10 minutes we could read what we had written and discuss with our neighbours the content (if we so wished). Surprisingly, the activity didn’t end there and the facilitator asked us to highlight up to 8 sentences in our creative writings. These sentences had to ‘jump out’ at us or offer meaning. After choosing our 8 sentences, we were asked to then make a poem out of the sentences in any order. This was brilliant. I began to think about how I could potentially use this as a therapeutic intervention related to mental health, and namely within my OCD Support and Recovery group.

As I was carrying out the exercise, I felt a sense of exposure, but this wasn’t anxiety provoking. It led to more of a curiosity as to what would come out from my 10 minutes writing without pausing. I guess it’s a lot like Freud’s  ‘free association’ but with a little bit of a twist. I like that idea a lot!

I think that if this intervention was used within my group, it has the potential to get a lot of ‘thoughts’ out on paper. For some this could be more anxiety provoking than others, dependent on the nature of OCD and the content of intrusive thoughts and obsessions. This is something that will have to be further explored through talking this activity through with members of the group to hear their perspectives and possible anxieties.

Possible Intervention

Follow the guidelines for intervention above but:

  1. Ask group members to write for 10 minutes continuously on the theme of OCD
  2. Highlight up to 15 positive words or sentences
  3. Adapt those 15 words into a creative poem related to their OCD.

Action Plan

  • I intend to research the evidence base for creative writing as a therapeutic intervention further. I have bought a book titled “Writing Well: Creative Writing and Mental Health” by Deborah Philips, Liz Linington and Debra Penman and also have a couple of chapters photocopied from “Ordinary Magic: Everyday Life as Spiritual Path” by John Wellwood from the training course attended. This will be read and studied further.
  • Speak to group members about their perspectives on using creative writing as a therapeutic activity to inform part  of their Recovery Action Plan.
  • Conduct the adapted activity on myself and see if it works.
  • Reflect further once I have used this activity on myself, and within a therapeutic environment.

References

Goldberg, N. (1986) Writing Down the Bones. Boston: Shambhala

Philips, D. Linington, L. and Penman, D. (1999) Writing Well: Creative Writing and Mental Health. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Wellwood, J. (1992) Ordinary Magic: Everyday Life as Spiritual Path. London: Shambhala

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Occupational Therapy Symposia: Identity and Transitions

After a very interesting conference I made my way over to the University of Salford to attend the occupational therapy symposia focussing on identity and transitions.

There were 4 presentations discussed but during the symposia I began to consider how OCD can shape ones identity, and what can happen to ones identity after the onset of OCD and anxiety. I began to reflect on my own experience and how my life and whole attitude to life and myself as a person has changed due to the experience of OCD.

Anyway I thought that this would be something that would be worth exploring!

 

Questions to think about for reflective blog post on identity:

  • How did my occupational identity change after the onset of OCD, depression and anxiety?
  • What role loss did I experience?
  • What occupations were lost?
  • Does OCD give you an identity or does mental illness change your identity?
  • What is identity?

 

Reflection on Completing the ‘Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector’ from 2011/2012

The Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) module has introduced me to the teaching profession and how education and learning works in the lifelong learning sector, but it has also introduced new theories and how they inform teacher practice. The aim of this reflective evaluation is to consolidate my learning throughout the (PTLLS) module to demonstrate professional growth and to show how theory has been applied and impacted upon my practice as a student teacher.

The PTLLS module has enabled me to gain new knowledge and skills in three main sub areas: teaching practice, theory and practical experience. However, Initially I began by researching what makes a good teacher. I reflected on previous teachers of mine, reflected on how they taught, how they engaged their learners and their teaching methods. I realised that a good teacher can diversify, make learning accessible, interesting and also captivate their audience.

The PTLLS module provided an introduction to the wider roles and responsibilities of the teacher and the role of the Institute for Learning (IfL) in providing an ethical and professional structure to guide practice (Duckworth et al, 2010; Gravells, 2011). IfL, 2008).  Following the IfL Code of Professional Practice is the responsibility of all teachers’ as doing so ensures each learner is provided with a seamless service underpinned by respect, professionalism and quality (Gravells, 2011). All teachers should reflect on their practice (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008) to learn, grow and now that I am aware of the roles and responsibilities, I am able to act as a reflective professional who empowers each learner to achieve their educational goals.

The teacher is required to break barriers to learning (IfL, 2008) e.g. learning needs, and to identify these barriers through the use of initial and diagnostic assessments (Gravells, 2011) e.g. through application forms or interviews. Through learning how to identify needs, I believe I am able to empower learners by providing learning that is suitable to their needs. This has been achieved through following support plans for dyslexic learners and providing handouts on specific coloured paper based upon their needs.

Theoretically, I have learned numerous theories of learning, such as ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ and how the cognitive, affective and psycho-motor domains inform teacher practice. Bloom suggested that learner’s experience 5 stages ‘attention, perception, understanding, short-/long-term memory and change in behaviour’ (Gravells, 2011, p. 58). My understanding and learning of ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ now assists me with a deeper understanding of the learning process and how to plan lessons aimed to reach each domain.

Furthermore, I have developed knowledge and skills in learning styles analysis, such as Honey and Mumford (1992), and Fleming (2005) who indicated that there were four styles of learning, however the PTTLS module focussed on three: Visual, Aural and Kinaesthetic (Gravells, 2011). Through developing knowledge in how to identify learning styles, I am now able to analyse how each learner learns and processes information best, and so adapt how I provide learning to meet individual learner needs, thus ensuring inclusivity (Gravells, 2011; Silver et al, 1997).

Importantly, the PTLLS module prepared me for putting theory into practice. The micro and mini teach enabled consolidation all of learning, such as how to develop a successful lesson plan mapped to learning outcomes using specific, achievable, realistic and timely aims and objectives, how to embed functional skills necessary to meet legislation requirements set by the Education and Skills Act (2008) (www.legislation.gov.uk) and ensuring good time management within the lesson. A knowledge of, and experience of successful lesson planning is crucial to enable effective teaching and assessment (Gravells, 2011). This experience built confidence in my abilities as a teacher but importantly, it highlighted personal learning needs that I am required to develop and action in order to become a better teacher in the future, such as projecting my voice to make sure I am heard by all learners.

As a student teacher I understand the importance of learning and to continuously improve upon practice. Due to the nature of the profession, teachers’ must have a sound knowledge base, keep up to date with developments within their area of expertise in order to maintain professional standards and to ensure one is fit for purpose and fit for practice (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008).  Student teachers’ should employ strategies for further learning, and skills acquisition, and in evaluating practical teaching and mapping it to classroom learning in Teacher Education.

A method of learning that teachers’ and all student teachers’ must participate in is reflective practice (Gravells, 2011). The importance of reflection should not be underestimated, as learning can take place anywhere and at any time. Teacher’s must evaluate their practice to continuously improve and become better teachers’ (Gravells, 2011) and become better equipped to deal with challenging situations. An example from my experience of reflecting on performance is through considering how to become better at classroom management.

As a teacher one must never stop learning. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a requirement of the IfL to prove teachers’ are providing a service that is current, quality assured and ensures that the teachers’ knowledge and skills are constantly replenished (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008; IfL, 2009. By maintaining CPD this ensures professionalism flourishes, demonstrates a commitment to IfL standards and most importantly, a commitment to your learners (Gravells, 2011; IfL, 2008; IfL, 2009).

 

I will now discuss three ways in which my practice has been developed since undertaking the PTLLS module.

Firstly, I believe that I have learned about the importance of planning. Planning lessons is crucial for success (Gravells, 2011). I have learned how to integrate functional skills into my lesson planning and to map them to learning outcomes, a crucial aspect of lesson planning (Gravells, 2011) and meeting the requirements set by the Education and Skills Act (2008) (www.legislation.gov.uk).

I have learned about the importance of using differentiation as an approach to teaching to respect the individuality of learners (Timmons, 2010).  Utilising theory, such as learning styles analysis is crucial to ensure you are teaching effectively for each learner, and promoting inclusivity in your practice (Gravells, 2011). Theory informs teacher practice (Gravells, 2011) and the PTLLS module has given me a valuable insight to its importance.

 

Finally, and most importantly, the PTLLS module introduced the IfL Code of Professional Conduct (2008). This is possibly the most important aspect of learning in the PTLLS module because it has ensured that quality is measurable. I believe that following these standards of conduct and professionalism will act as a guide for providing a quality service to learners.

References

Duckworth, V., Wood, J., Dickinson, J. and Bostock, J. (2010) Successful Teaching Practice in the Lifelong Learning Sector. Exeter: Learning Matters

Gravells, A. (2011) Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 4th Ed. Exeter: Learning Matters

Institute for Learning (2008) Code of Professional Practice. London: Institute for Learning

Institute for Learning (2009) Guidelines for your CPD. London: Institute for Learning

Silver, H. Strong, R. and Perini, M. (1997) “Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences”. Educational Leadership. (9), pp.22-27.

Timmons, J. (2010) Becoming a Professional Tutor in the Lifelong Learning Sector. 2nd Ed. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Other References

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2008/25/contents (Date Accessed – 18/12/11)

To See a World in a Grain of Sand…

To See a World in a Grain of Sand

and a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand

and Eternity in an Hour…

William Blake (Taken from Auguries of Innocence)

I read this excerpt and just couldn’t resist putting this onto my blog, I just thought it was absolutely beautiful! When reading this piece I felt that Blake must have experienced a connection with ‘oneness’, for this beautifully symbolises the entire ‘philosophy’ (if you will)!

I again pondered on this, in relation to my own OCD and it made me think that I should appreciate the world, life and oneness with nature and fear not about the ‘small stuff’ (namely obsessions and compulsions)!

Just thought I’d share, with it resonating with me.

Peace and Love

Online Master Class 1: Occupational Science (after thoughts)

There’s nothing like a posh cup of vanilla flavoured coffee with friends, and last Tuesday I met up with my friend, Sarah Bodell. We had a catch up and I generally moaned on about my experiences with obsessive compulsive disorder, but before she escaped back to her fortress of occupational solitude…well her office…she informed me of something that the directorate of occupational therapy at the University of Salford were delivering…online master classes in advanced occupational therapy! I decided to sign up and am so I pleased I did! The best £30 I’ve spent since my last art supplies binge!

Tonight though, I attended the first class delivered online by Dr Jackie Taylor, focussing on occupational science. Even though she was very unsympathetic towards my bad dose of ‘man flu’, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her! I was so inspired by this lecture that I have decided to go away and delve into research of something exceedingly interesting for my blog. What is that I hear you grumble? Well we discussed the core meaning of occupation, yes we all know what that is…meaningful and purposeful activity and all that jazz…but think of this…are there times when occupations actually become detrimental to our health and wellbeing? Of course! Anyone who knows me and has read my personal account of obsessive compulsive disorder will be very much aware of how compulsions act as what I will refer to as “negative occupations” (how about that huh for a term :-p).

So with that said my plan now is to go away and research this area and relate it to obsessive compulsive disorder. Are there ‘positive occupations’ and ‘negative occupations’? What an interesting concept for my mind to wrestle with….

On a final note…The only criticisms I can possibly conjure up from this master class is that the most interesting bit (well I think so anyway) was right at the end of the class… and, of course, I want to attend much more of these classes!!! So Jackie, Sarah, Debbie…I will be officially picking your brains soon and pestering for more master classes!!!!

 

Over and out for now…

CMOP Cue Sheet

Please find in the additional pages a cue sheet to use in initial assessments! I developed this whilst I was a student and it helped a lot!