Wednesday, March 30

Creative Writing - value to society (part 1)

On a day that the Arts Council England slashed funding for many small literature organisations, I thought I should post about how valuable creative writing can be.

The creative arts, when done well, are of course pleasurable and beneficial to both the artist and audience.  Many writers and artists, even amateur ones, benefit psychologically in terms of mood, feelings of accomplishment and self-esteem.

For this reason, the creative arts can be of great benefit to people with mental health problems. Art therapy is where people use a visual art form primarily for psychological treatment, and Chapman et al (2001) reported it to be helpful for child patients who had suffered traumatic injuries.

Writing therapy can be effective in reducing stress, improving health, increasing mood, and helping people to cope (Harber & Pennebaker, 1992).  What makes writing arguably unique among arts-based therapies is the potential of the written word to help people both communicate and re-examine aspects of their life.  Pizarro (2004) found that while art therapy led to more enjoyment, it didn't match writing therapy in terms of improvements to social functioning.

Creative writing has been used to help rehabilitation of prisoners by organisations such as the Writers in Prison Network, helping hundreds of people to transform their lives (and benefitting society as a whole).  Sadly, Writers in Prisons is one of 16 literature-related organisations to lose their core funding.

What can help to treat the mentally ill or rehabilitate offenders can no doubt have smaller-scale benefits for writers in more ordinary circumstances.  All in all, creative writing...  Fun?  Yes.  Valuable?  Very.

Chapman, L., Morabito, D., Ladakakos, C., Schreier, H., & Knudson, M. M. (2001). The effectiveness of art therapy interventions in reducing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
symptoms in pediatric trauma patients. Art Therapy: Journal of
the American Art Therapy Association, 18, 100-104.
Harber, K. D., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1992). Overcoming traumatic memories. In S. A. Christianson (Ed.), The Handbook of Emotion and Memory: Research and Theory (pp. 359-387). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Pizarro, J. (2004) The Efficacy of Art and Writing Therapy: Increasing Positive Mental Health Outcomes and Participant Retention After Exposure to Traumatic Experience. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, 21(1), 5-12.

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