Monthly Group: attended by 3 people who have all been before. (1) We started with 6 minutes of ‘head chatter’ – Freewriting with no prompt. We all took a while to settle into the writing. One participant commented that he wrote very quickly at first and slowed down as he calmed down. (2) The remainder of the 2-hour session was based on an exercise from an excellent book I bought a while back: “Writing Well: Creative Writing and Mental Health” page 93. See http://www.amazon.co.uk/Writing-Well-Creative-Mental-Health/dp/1853026506/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335104977&sr=8-1. We all wrote about a live performance we’d seen that stuck in our minds. (3) After a coffee break we wrote about being in an imaginary theatre, props and scenery, characters, first lines, and how the performance progressed. I was nervous about the last exercise because I thought it would be quite a challenge. Actually it worked really well and listening to everyone’s different writing responses was wonderful.
Weekly group in adult psychiatric ward: 2 patients participated – a young woman and a young man. We started with Freewriting from word prompts – pool, moon, sky, ship. We wrote for 2 minutes per word then read back what we’d written. I followed this with exercise (2) above – live performance. The young woman wrote a very sad account of an occasion when she had planned to go to a live performance with friends but was prevented from going by the person whose house she was living in at that time. By contrast the young man and I both wrote positively. Nevertheless both patients said they enjoyed, and got a lot from, the session. It is my belief that, given the right kind of encouragement, people write what they need to write at that moment. The young man stayed beyond the official end of the session and did some more writing while I filled out the forms that I put into the patients’ notes (a feedback form and a volitional questionnaire). We had a chat about what he had got from the session. He said that he’d been having trouble with low concentration but that the writing had enabled him to concentrate.
Weekly group in psychiatric intensive care: 1 young woman participated. this was the best session I’ve had in intensive care so far (I started Auguat 2011). The patient was feeling low but she said that the writing session inspired her. We started by writing in response to some picture postcards – by far the best writing stimulus to use in psychiatric intensive care I find. Postcards are endlessly adaptable depending on the level of concentration and abilities of the patients. On this occasion the patient was an experienced writer of song lyrics so I did not need to give her much in the way of explanation to inspire her to get writing. I also left her to write as long as she wanted. I made up the second exercise on the spot – we wrote the name of a colour 5 times on the left hand side of the page then another colour then another. Altogether we used silver, blue, green, yellow and gold. Then we wrote a short line starting with each colour. Finally the idea was to pick from the lines to make a poem. We didn’t quite finish but I think the patient will continue with it sometime. We wrote together, read aloud and talked for the full hour session, which in psychiatric intensive care is good going. The young woman looked visibly happier and more alert at the end of the session and said she planned to do more writing because of the session.
So, 3 great sessions from my point of view. It’s weeks like these when I really feel I’m doing a good job. Of course not all weeks are this good but as long as I keep learning and improving that’s fine with me.
I hope my posts will give you ideas for your own writing or for your groups. Do please post comments.