International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleWriting for recovery: a practice development project for mental health service users, carers and survivors
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sSam Taylor, Helen Leigh-Phippard and Alec Grant
ReferenceVolume 4, Issue 1, Article 5
Date of PublicationMay 2014
Keywordscreative writing, mental health, narrative inquiry, practice development, recovery, social justice

Background: This paper discusses a writing for recovery narrative practice development project based on Deleuzian theoretical principles. Creative writing was based on a formulation of ‘recovery’ as transcending the social invalidation, discrimination and abusive effects of institutional psychiatry.

Aims and objectives:

  • To provide a safe space for participants to explore the creative writing process
  • To reduce participants’ anxieties about creative writing
  • To enable a supportive environment to explore and discover individual writing voices
  • To help participants work towards recovery and personal and social meaning through creativewriting

Methods: By drawing on principles from the humanities and the use of creative writing techniques we were able to harness the individual and collective creative writing process. The aim was to facilitate the development of individual and group re-storying recovery identities, removed from perceived or actual institutional mental health expectations.

Results: The principal output from the group was the publication of an anthology of participants’ work. New friendships were made in a community of recovery writers in the process of re-storying identities, and there was evidence of growth in participants’ self- and social confidence, supported by testimony from their significant others.
Conclusions: Recovery community resilience and individual self-confidence can be developed through the medium of creative writing. It enables participants to explore and develop new, more viable identities in a safe space, sharing and working through experiences of social injustice, anger, fear and betrayal.

Implications for practice:

  • A rejection of values-based or evidence-based practice allows for a revised understanding ofrecovery, paving the way for narrative-based approaches
  • As a model of such a revised understanding, Writing for Recovery enables participants to explorenew, more viable identities and come to terms with traumatic past events
  • A challenge for mental health staff embracing Writing for Recovery is to acknowledge that onestrand of participants’ traumatic past is institutional psychiatric treatment

This article by Sam Taylor, Helen Leigh-Phippard and Alec Grant is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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