Gillie Bolton and Jeannie K. Wright
Writing Cures demonstrates both the therapeutic potential of expressive and reflective writing in its own right, and the tremendous range of ways in which it is used in the practice of counselling and psychotherapy. Therapeutic writing needs to be widely recognised and used in British counselling, psychotherapy and clinical psychology practice. Whether or not it ever becomes an established complementary therapy like art or music therapy, is open to debate.
The term 'therapeutic writing', as we have used it in Writing Cures, covers a wide range of provision and enquiry. Writing within cognitive and analytic therapy is different from, for example, journal writing which can be offered within a range of therapies. And these are different again from email and internet relay chat used as vehicles for therapy. 'Interapy', offered over the internet in the Netherlands works through a structured series of writing tasks supported by therapists (Lange et al. 2003). But the core of all these projects is the same-that writing is different from talking and has its own particularly powerful benefits. The broad area of therapeutic writing is sufficiently new that a discussion of its definition would be very welcome. Here is a working definition which is open to discussion:
Therapeutic writing employs processes of personal, explorative and expressive writing, which might also be creative or literary, in which patients or clients are offered guidance and inspiration by a clinician or creative writer, and help in choosing a topic for their writing. This might take the form of approaches similar to 'guided fantasy', or it might take the form of something more like an 'essay topic', or structured writing tasks. Each person is encouraged to work in a way that accords with their own interests and concerns, and according to their own felt wants and needs. Authority and control of each piece of writing always resides with the writer.
Whereas literary writing is orientated towards a literature product of as high a quality as possible (e.g. poetry, fiction, drama), generally aimed at an unknown audience, the emphasis of therapeutic writing is on the process of