Moving Write Along: Advice from the Experts – Write for Recovery
by Diane Sherry Case

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I have been utterly exhausted,
when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring
for another five minutes… and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.”
– Joyce Carol Oates, Paris Review article

There is a long tradition of using art to facilitate growth and healing. Personal and intimate writing, sometimes in the form of diary or autobiography, has been used as a means of introspection, coping, and spiritual growth throughout history from St. Augustine to Anne Frank to Alan Ginsburg.

More recently, journaling has been a popular tool to gain insight into oneself and clear the mind. It can be as simple as ridding oneself of emotional garbage, clearing away our most obvious “stuff’, thereby allowing access to the thoughts and feelings below it.

Traditional writing therapy is an expressive therapy that generally consists of processing traumatic events by writing about them, much the same talk therapy works. Writing therapy as a means to process trauma has been proven not only to improve psychological well-being, but to improve the immune system, as well.

Write for Recovery is somewhat different than traditional writing therapy, in that creating a playful creative flow is just as important as delving deep into the psyche. Specific exercises are designed to overcome grief, loss, and trauma, not only by writing about the events, but by awakening coping mechanisms and symbolic resources; metaphors for self-soothing, for example. Writing is used as a way to make friends with fear, anger, and grief, and deal creatively with change, transition, and goals. Among the goals is to awaken our creative spirit and partake in the joys of living.

This kind of writing is served best by using exercises designed to bypass the intellect and get straight to the unconscious and/or the emotions. The resulting creative flow pours effortlessly onto the paper (and into your life.) You are surprised by what you’ve written. Strengths you never knew you had show up. Questions are often answered, even questions the writer was not aware of until sitting down to write.

Write for Recovery includes using different forms of private writing or journaling. Dumping can get boring. How about writing your journal in the third person, for example?

When people share what they have written, a deeper form of communication is initiated and isolation is diminished. The facilitator can also then design exercises appropriate to where the client is at and what their goals are for the session.

Writing of any kind can serve to heal wounds, express hope, and learn more about the self. Finding our words can help us to find our center, keep current in our emotions, and explore our relationships to other people and to the world. If we are ready or interested, writing can help in the search for meaning and purpose in our lives.

Last but not least, writing is fun and uplifting! If you don’t believe me, try this writing exercise:

1. Pen in hand, scribble a little so it won’t be a blank page. Now, think of someone you love or have loved, someone you would like to give a gift. You may give them anything from nature: a cloud, snow, a mountain, a tree.

2. Describe your gift, writing as quickly as you can. Forget about spelling, grammar, sentences. Forget about thinking, just write.

3. As you write, you might want to draw your gift, or spend time with closed eyes, (or maybe look out the window!) so that you can envision it in detail.

4. If you get stuck, just write the last sentence over and over until the next sentence comes up. It will!

5. Write about why you treasure this piece of nature, why you want to give this gift to this person.

6. Now write about the experience of giving your gift. Is it difficult? Joyous?

Diane Sherry Case has an MFA in creative writing.  Her short stories have been anthologized, made into films, and performed in various venues. She has taught incarcerated teens, prep school girls, adults in rehab and the elderly. She teaches Write for Recovery both privately and in groups. Visit her at

Copyright 2010 Diane Sherry Case


Comments are closed.

  1. Pam Smothers 12 years ago

    This is so cool and so right. Writing helps in a lot of ways. Sometimes I’ve been so mad about something, and then when I write about it, I discover it’s something completely different that I’m mad about and then I can deal with it. Does that make sense? Actually, it doesn’t matter if it works for me. I wrote about my mother dying and it really helped me get though it. I saved that journal, but have never been able to read it. It’s tucked away in a file. I guess that’s all right, too. I think, when there’s something going on in your life that needs fixin’, it seems this “Write for Recovery” would be a super way to get started in the dealing and healing of it.

  2. Diane Sherry Case 12 years ago

    Thanks for you sharing your experience. I love how just putting something on paper often takes the sting out of it. Therapy is mostly about sharing your feelings, so in that respect, your journal is the therapist that is always available! The work we do in Write For Recovery includes the things you didn’t express in the past, as well as creating ways to deal with things in the present and methods to dream up your future. Writing is great for emergencies and healing. Daily writing also keeps us current – so keep it up!


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