Written words can raise goose pimples: they work, when even the most appropriate of physical treatments, dietary therapies and psychological approaches haven't succeeded. The vitality of words may have something to do with the nature of language and the magic of storytelling and poetry in a way that reaches well beyond psychological theories into the fundamental qualities of being human, and which may underpin or short-circuit treatments. This chapter explores what some of the roots of this vitality may be, and how they might help us understand how writing helps.
Our health and care industries produce a vast acreage of writing-records, minutes, reports, inquiries, correspondence and so on in an administrative papyrosphere accumulating on a grand scale-yet the writing itself is largely unthought about and untaught about. The routine letters written to and for our patients, for example, deserve more attention than they get.
I will borrow from the concept of writing and therapy as discussed in this book, propose a theoretical perspective developed from Burnshaw's (1970) account of the inherent continuity between the life sciences, psychology, mythology and the arts, and show how specifically consultative approaches to our clientele, with their quite radical implications for therapeutic work, can contribute to writing as therapy. Thoughtful and reflective letter-writing is given as an exemplar, demonstrating how we can add teaching, learning and a new dimension to therapy to administrative necessity. But first I want to consider how extraordinary words are.
Symbols and imagery have astonishing power, the more so because we largely take them for granted. As much as we shape them they shape us, and words, spoken or written, indeed any sort of notation, share this potency. Words carry more than