Professor Tony Wall reports on a lockdown study of 100 therapeutic writers carried out by Lapidus International.
A new national study by the University of Chester and Lapidus examines how creative writing for therapeutic purposes provision changed under the first lockdown of 2020. The study focused on the top 1% most health deprived areas in England (clustered into 16 areas) and combines web analyses, virtual focus groups and interviews, to find out how provision changed, how these changes impacted people, who had been excluded, and what is needed at the local level.
The study found that in all of the areas studied many writing opportunities stopped and that in 88%, they were not replaced with alternatives. All areas, however, created new online opportunities for writing. The chart below summarises some of the key changes:
Evidence showed, however, that the new, online groups were a double edged sword across all areas in the study; not only did they increase contact, enhance relationships, and improve inclusion for those who world not normally access or participate in the provision – they also did the opposite. The diagram below maps the percentage proportion of area groups that reported specific positives (in green) and negatives (in red).
The study found that people with mental health challenges - the very people most likely to benefit from writing for wellbeing - tended to become the most likely to be excluded form participation. The diagrams below highlight the three most mentioned groups across the 16 study clusters.
Importantly, the study found that most of the government’s protected characteristics – such as age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation – were mentioned across the study as being (unintentionally) excluded from provision under lockdown.
The report says the findings are an urgent call for change in order to drive a creative recovery through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recommendations about how to unlock the potential of creative writing for therapeutic purposes, as demonstrated through empirical studies over the last 20 years, include:
Barbara Bloomfield, Chair of Lapidus International, says: “We know that writing for wellbeing is a safe and cost-effective method of improving mental health as well as bringing back a sense of community engagement to isolated people during lockdown. We fully endorse these recommendations to bring this gentle, therapeutic activity to more people at this difficult time”.
All recommendations can be read in the full report here: http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.17280.46080
The research was supported by the University of Chester Quality Research COVID-19 Fund and Lapidus International, the writing for wellbeing association. Lapidus International is the global association for promoting the research and practice of therapeutic writing, and supports practitioners working in education, health, community, voluntary, private and public sectors.