Recuperating writers-and writing: The potential of writing therapy

Document Type

Journal Article


Association of Australian Writing Programs

Place of Publication



Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Contemporary Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications




Neilsen, P. M., & Murphy, F. (2008). Recuperating writers-and writing: the potential of writing therapy. TEXT: Journal of Writing & Writing Courses, 12(1).

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Writing therapy usefully creates, or makes explicit, common ground between literature and medicine, arts and sciences, and between clinical and community sectors and the academy. It draws upon multiple theories of language, memory, pain, subjectivity, identity, creativity, and the unconscious and is a site at which the concerns of established and emerging disciplines and interest groups coalesce; for example, literary studies, psychoanalysis, narrative therapy, narrative medicine, trauma studies, human rights, life-writing, and testimony studies. This article maps the field to indicate the breadth and potential of writing therapy as well as its risks and difficulties, and also suggests ways in which the practice and theory of therapeutic writing relates to and might be compatible with the practice and theory of creative and life-writing. Research suggests that writing may be most beneficial to health if it moves through developmental stages typical of writing designed for a readership. Transformation in the writing over time is relevant to both literary and health assessments. The article concludes that writing therapy presents a fascinating challenge for the discipline of creative writing and that there is potential for university writer-teachers to investigate writing therapy in academic, health science and community settings.

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