Date of Paper/Work

5-2015

Type of Paper/Work

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy

Department

Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Kristine Haertl, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA

Department/School

Occupational Science/Occupational Therapy

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine therapeutic writing through the experiences of persons with mental health diagnoses from the perspectives of occupational science and occupational therapy. Personal writing is the use of the writing process to cultivate and express fulfillment and contentment. This qualitative study was the third phase of a larger research endeavor on the healing properties of writing by the principal investigator. A phenomenologically-based study was designed utilizing interviews as well as inductive and deductive analysis by two previous student researchers in 2010, with additional sub-questions on how writing affects societal issues by the current student researcher in 2014. These sub-questions were added to explore the role of root narratives in the healing process and their contributions to wellness and personal writing. A sample of six persons with mental health diagnoses was recruited primarily through Tasks Unlimited, Inc. a mental health organization. Participants were interviewed about their participation in personal writing and its relation to personal expression, health and wellness, and quality of life. The study found writing to be very therapeutic; there are many healing properties of the personal writing process including clarity of mind, reduced depression and anxiety, and cathartic release. Writing helped people gain self-awareness, facilitated creative self-expression, increased insight and empathy in social relationships, and connected people to spirituality and purpose. The results were then synthesized with findings from previous students in order to produce a robust set of evidence for publication. Therapeutic writing is a viable tool that can be used to facilitate healing within mental health interventions in occupational therapy and other allied health professions.

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