From October 25th to December 6th I will host a Wednesday evening (6:30-8:30pm) therapeutic writing workshop for women. This workshop will focus on creative nonfiction, memoir, and other types of personal writing, including poetry and song lyrics. Participants will be encouraged to write from their most authentic selves and share the gritty, tender truth of their own experience.
Telling our stories is an essential part of healing, whether the wound is deep or relatively superficial. On a brain level, language brings the neocortex online, allowing body-based, unconscious memories and associations to enter consciousness and be transformed by awareness. Furthermore, giving words to our experience in the presence of compassionate people adds new, relational strands to the neural net that holds a given memory.
“A creative writing class might be one of the last places you can go where your life still matters.” Richard Hugo
The Writing Portion
Over the course of six weeks (skipping the week of November 15th), we will explore various tricks of the writing trade by looking closely at the work of published writers and musicians who have fearlessly described their own life experiences. Together we will discover what makes their writing effective. For instance, how do their words move us emotionally and deepen our empathy without being overly shocking or offensive? How do they use imagery, metaphor, and sound play to enhance the reading experience?
Each two-hour session will include a brief writing exercise to help get the creative juices flowing. These exercises will likely provide inspiration for a potential personal essay, short story, poem, or song. The first session will mostly consist of introductions and the building of rapport and safety. The last session will be our opportunity to reflect on the overall experience and share anything that still needs expression. The four sessions in between will largely focus on “workshopping” a given group member’s writing. Each reader will provide a written reflection on her peer’s work and voice her constructive feedback in the group setting.
The Therapeutic Portion
As we read the emotionally-charged work of published authors and fellow group members, we will take ample time to explore our internal reactions. Some of us will have difficult or unpleasant responses, while others will appreciate the deep connection we feel to another person. Together we will validate and unpack all of these internal experiences. We’ll explore them with the kind of curiosity and gentleness that I use in psychotherapy sessions.
Together we will discover how language, combined with the supportive presence of people who care, can enhance the brain’s ability to integrate past and present experience. Participants will also see that they are not alone in their conflicted feelings about the human experience, which is by turns terrible and beautiful (or sometimes both at the same time!). They will learn from each other how to be the warm, compassionate presence that all of us need in order to thrive.
“This is what I learned: that everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.” Brenda Ueland
I love writing! And I love practicing psychotherapy! So combining these passions seems like a no-brainer. In 2008, I received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from NC State University, where I wrote a literary novel as my thesis. I also majored in Creative Writing as an undergrad at Appalachian State University. This means I have participated in a large number of writing workshops and know how to run them. In fact I did run them as a teaching assistant at NCSU, and afterwards in the community setting.
More recently, I acquired a large number of my late grandmother’s diaries (pictured above). Reading her entries has only deepened my love for personal writing and inspired me to journal even more often than usual. I believe that writing about one’s life is a profound way to honor it. (And it helps us remember it, too!) In sharing our personal stories with others, and in reading theirs, we feel more seen and understood. We establish a deeper connection with our fellow humans. I’m excited to help facilitate that connection with this therapeutic writing workshop.
In 2015 I earned my Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Goddard College. As an intern I worked at an outpatient eating disorders treatment center in Albuquerque. There I gained a year’s worth of experience in facilitating group therapy sessions. I also helped lead a community support group during that time. So I have seen and felt firsthand the challenges and rewards inherent to trusting others with our deeper, sometimes more painful, truths. I know how to create the safety and rapport that this dynamic needs.
If you’d like to register for this therapeutic writing workshop, please contact me. The registration deadline is Wednesday, October 11th, and enrollment is limited to eight participants. The cost is $200. Along with the sessions themselves, fees will go toward reading and listening materials that I will provide. Payment plans and scholarships are available.