Reflective Writing in Counselling and Psychotherapy
Sage Publishing 2018
Although the title implies this book is designed for counsellors and psychotherapists, I believe it is potentially helpful for many others. Facilitators of writing for wellbeing and personal development will find it a rich source of stimulating ideas and exercises. Individuals seeking to improve self-awareness – whether as part of reflective practice in a work setting, or simply to grow as a human being – can use this book as a practical guide.
Jeannie Wright caters for both those at the start of their counselling training and for experienced therapists; she provides encouragement for both reluctant and naturally keen writers. We follow the progress of three fictional trainee counsellors who are set reflective writing tasks as part of their course; they differ dramatically in their approaches to counselling and their enthusiasm for writing. We become engaged with their journey, see the obstacles and fears which impede their writing and how they overcome these - picking up tips for ourselves and our clients on the way.
The layout of the book enables those searching for a specific theme to find this easily: chapter titles include ‘Starting out; how to write reflectively’; ‘With company or travelling alone?’; ‘Writing to identify prejudice’; ‘Writing the Past’. Writing facilitators in a hurry will find writing activities and prompts clearly bullet-pointed and accessible at the end of every chapter; however, one of the strengths of this guidebook is the way in which the writing exercises are thoroughly rooted in theory. Wright adopts a pluralistic approach: reflective writing is made relevant to the diverse frameworks within which counsellors practise. Her own experience – she has taught counselling in New Zealand and Fiji as well as the UK – colours her thinking; there is a refreshing awareness of non-Western and feminist perspectives, and we are gently but firmly challenged to examine the limitations of our own world-view.
The writing prompts are plentiful and practical. They range from easy – accessible to the most nervous or time-pressed writer – to more challenging and time consuming. There are lists and sentence stems galore, unsent letters, dialogues, even drawing and writing exercises. Self-care advice is clearly and repeatedly stressed.
I particularly enjoyed the anecdotes and the wealth of eclectic quotations scattered throughout – from writers ranging from bell hooks to Emily Dickinson and from James Pennebaker to Ursula Le Guin. Liam Wright-Higgins’ drawings enhance the text. Reading this book is like having a wise, experienced friend -encouraging, thought-provoking, challenging us to write!
Lizzie Dunford spent her childhood in a seaside manse in Ulster, where she scribbled stories as the Troubles rumbled. Studying English Literature at university scared her off writing for decades, during which she taught English in secondary schools in Belfast, Ely and Nottingham. The introduction of the short-lived A Level in Creative Writing kickstarted her own writing again. Lizzie has just completed her MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes with the Metanoia Institute and is now working free-lance. She is interested in the relationship between poetry and well-being, especially mental health.