1st Edition

Writing for Wellbeing Theory, Research, and Practice

Edited By Katrin Den Elzen, Reinekke Lengelle Copyright 2023
    282 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    282 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Writing can support our wellbeing even under the most difficult life circumstances, helping us to adapt to significant change, make sense of loss, improve our physical and emotional resilience, and foster personal growth. Numerous studies of Expressive Writing have confirmed this, and there are other established methodologies for practice. However, to date, few accounts have offered detailed descriptions showing how and why putting pen to paper can be so beneficial. This book delves deeply into the landscape of Writing-for-wellbeing and demonstrates the transformative power of writing in a wide range of contexts. Topics include personal trauma narratives within the Humanities; a participatory Writing-for-wellbeing study that demonstrates the effectiveness of writing in the context of grief and loss; surprise as the hidden mainspring of poetry's therapeutic potency; the empowerment and healing potential offered by Black women’s blogs; playwriting positioning LGBTQIA+ identities as positive through stories of belonging; how writing workshops have helped newly literate Indigenous adults and other participants in the Australian outback; and how the smuggled writings of Behrouz Boochani have enabled global witnessing of the stories of refugees held in offshore detention. This resource sets out the theory and research at the foundation of Writing-for-wellbeing in close relation to full and engaging accounts of practice. It aims to make the topic accessible and affirms its place as an effective reconstructive practice alongside other expressive arts therapies, providing a holistic and inspiring resource for anyone wishing to practice, teach, or research Writing-for-wellbeing.


    Reinekke Lengelle and Katrin Den Elzen

    Chapter 1: When your Partner Dies: A Conversation about Writing and Post-Traumatic Growth in Widowhood

    Katrin Den Elzen & Reinekke Lengelle

    Chapter 2: Poetry and Connection: Encounter, Surprise, and Dialogue

    Reinekke Lengelle, Jon Sayers, & Geri Giebel Chavis

    Chapter 3: The Write Road to Self-Discovery, Recovery, and Growth

    Stephanie Dale

    Chapter 4: Managing Life Writing and Trauma: A Reflection

    Sue Joseph

    Chapter 5: The Self as Chambered Nautilus: Discovering the Healing Power of Writing as a Graduate Student

    Jennifer Bertrand


    Chapter 6: Writing as an Antidepressant in a Pandemic

    Jeffrey Berman

    Chapter 7: Teaching Therapeutic Writing in a Higher Education Context

    Claire Williamson

    Chapter 8: Narrating Grief and Loss: A Writing-For-Wellbeing Study

    Katrin Den Elzen and Robert A. Neimeyer

    Chapter 9: Life Writing as Resistance: Human Rights Defender Behrouz Boochani and Australia’s Offshore Detention Regime

    Rahel Den Elzen and Adrienne Munro


    Chapter 10: A Black Woman’s Blog Posts: Writing for Personal and Social Empowerment and Healing

    Menah Pratt

    Chapter 11: Creative Writing, Reading and Queer Belonging: Gender Insubordination in the American Deep South

    Dallas Baker

    Chapter 12: Doctors Hold Untold Stories too: Writing the Self in Medicine and Health as an Act of Self-Care

    Anne Taylor


    Chapter 13: Memoir and Reader Perception: The Reader-Author Relationship

    Katrin Den Elzen


    Katrin Den Elzen, PhD, is a research associate in the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry, Curtin University, Perth, Australia and a Writing-for-wellbeing lecturer for graduate students in expressive art therapies, Murdoch University, Perth. She works as a grief counselor and Writing-for-wellbeing facilitator.

    Reinekke Lengelle, PhD, is Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Athabasca University, Canada and a researcher at The Hague University. Her book Writing the Self in Bereavement: A Story of Love, Spousal Loss, and Resilience won the Best Book Award for Ethnography in 2021 and the Qualitative Inquiry Book Award in 2022.

    “Over a thousand research studies have now demonstrated how putting distressing experiences into words can improve physical, emotional and mental health. Writing for Wellbeing, edited by Katrin Den Elzen and Reinekke Lengelle, translates the scientific findings into the art and practice of writing. The book gracefully points to ways therapists, practitioners, teachers, and those seeking self understanding have used different writing methods to come to terms with grief, tragedy, disease, injustice, and to foster positive identity change. This is ultimately an uplifting book that brings together the best of science, practice, and humanity. Whether you are a student, counselor, researcher, or a person living with pain or suffering, this book can speak to you.”

    James W Pennebaker, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, Author of Opening it Up by Writing it Do

    "Den Elzen and Lengelle have gathered experts from a range of disciplines and perspectives to illustrate the depth and breadth of Writing-for-well-being as a means of addressing human experience to facilitate growth. The scope is inspiring. In particular, authors address writing as an approach to trauma, loss and fear which beset modern society. At last we have a book that brings together current research, theory and practice with the authority to show that this field has come of age. It will inspire practitioners, writers, therapists and individuals to take up the pen and begin to understand more deeply the experiences that make them who they are."

    Kate Thompson, Existential Therapist and author of Therapeutic Journal Writing: An Introduction for Professionals

    "Den Elzen and Lengelle give a clear guide to illuminating our lives by writing its stories. They guide us through the theory and practice of developmental reflective writing: we do not learn from experience alone, but from what we do with it afterwards. We are inspired to restore (re-story) our relationship with ourselves, with others and with our world. A life-enhancing process: we learn, in this writing, to ‘tread softly’."

    Dr. Gillie Bolton, author of The Writer’s Key: Creative Solutions for Life and co-founder of Lapidus

    "A comprehensive, passionate blend of the theory and practice of Writing-for-wellbeing that offers a rich expanse of diverse international writing from practitioners and academics who are using, researching, developing, and teaching creative practices such as poetry, memoir, or autobiographical writing to support recovery and promote personal growth. This book makes an important contribution to a rapidly growing body of knowledge, bringing together current research of personal and social transformation through the use of writing."

    Dr. Kim Etherington, Professor Emerita of Narrative and Life Story Research, University of Bristol, UK, and author of Becoming a Reflexive Researcher: Using Ourselves in Research

    "Writing-for-wellbeing teaches us in a sublime way how re-storying significant losses processes the event and restores wellbeing. The book is an ideal guide for creating meaning not only for the traumatized person but also for those seeking to address change and transition. A truly dialogical achievement!"

    Dr. Hubert Hermans, Narrative Psychologist and Researcher, Founder of Dialogical Self Theory and Professor Emeritus Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

    "This book transforms our day-to-day reality by embracing the power of writing, especially for those who have never considered themselves writers. It allows us to re-evaluate our interactions with the world around us and reinterpret our experiences through observation, self-exploration, reflection, creation, and healing. I’m especially inspired by this application to medicine wherein both patients and practitioners share in the illness narrative rather than place protective barriers between them. In so doing, writing invites the healing element of empathy while embracing, sharing, and joining in the shared human experience."

    Dr. Susan M. Wieczorek, Associate Professor of Communication, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, USA

    "That writing has the ‘power to transform’ and respond to ‘individual and collective trauma’ is well documented here. Den Elzen and Lengelle’s book is a welcome addition to the growing field of Writing-for-Wellbeing. These chapters are generous offerings from experienced writers, scholars and practitioners who openly share their skills as facilitators and personal reflections as individuals healing themselves. The contributions explore an unexpectedly diverse range of applications and cast light on a wide variety of global settings. Writing-for-Wellbeing narrates the successes and celebrates new possibilities in this important area."

    Cheryl Moskowitz, author of The Psychodynamics of Writing, and co-founder of Lapidus