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by Fiona Sampson (Editor)
Jessica Kingsley, 2004
Review by Patricia Ferguson, Psy.D. on Oct 9th 2005

Creative Writing In Health And Social Care

This is a book of different stories with a similar theme. It involves a number of healthcare settings and how writing can be palliative in each. The settings range from hospice to dementias and people of all ages in distress. Some of them are even in the recovery stage.

Each chapter is written by a different author from different places and persuasions. Although the settings include nursing homes, hospices, etc., the common theme is how literature is helpful even for the dying, For instance, in a Swedish hospice, poetry is read to the dying, and they felt much better although they couldn’t read it themselves, their families and those who are dying obviously enjoyed the readings. It gave them some sense of peace. What happened is that the living read the requested poem to the dying, at their bequest. The poems were significant to the dying as well as the living, allowing one final bonding to occur.

In the chapter about writing and dementia, those with dementia were quite expressive, which is contrary to what the general population expects. Thus we see that they are more knowledgeable than we expect. It is merely an inability to speak that causes us to dismiss them.

In a chapter called "Mission Impossible," the author spends some time describing how Macedonia is really two cultures and the work is to listen to storymaking with young people attending integrated creativity clubs. Macedonia used to be Yugoslavia, which explains the difficulties. This group comprises youth both with and without disabilities as well as Albanians and the Slav ethnic Macedonians, and well as other groups. The purpose is to teach young people to come together through communication. The phrase that I found most interesting in this chapter fits all wars. "You have two sides and each creates an extraordinary range of propaganda about the other. All opportunities for actual knowledge or communication are closed down. Luckily the war in Macedonia was quite short; but even in this time there were many victims of this propaganda as well as in the conflict itself."(p. 71) That describes all wars, long ago and still true today. So the children are brought together with young adults to engage in large-scale projects using creative activities. The author admits the goal of coming together will take a long time, but feels it will result in conflict resolution and ultimately, a union.

Another chapter is for teachers, students and writers who use writing as therapeutic practice. Here is where the theme of the book is expressly written. "Writing and health were one and the same thing."(p.79).In a project called The Gift, these caregivers were asked to write about illness, health or recovery, or birth, or hospitals, or doctors.

The rest of the chapters of the book are similar. None take place in the United States, and so it was even more interesting for me to learn how alike we all really are when you get down to it. In fact, one can feel downright stupid because nothing takes place in the US. However, such places no doubt do exist in the US and should be written about.

Until then, this book is really a must-have for therapists and others in the creative arts, so that you can see how the workings of the human mind can be displayed through the arts. Even with very serious illness, the mind can talk. And that is the point of the book.

© 2005 Patricia Ferguson

 

Patricia Ferguson, Psy.D, is a clinical psychologist and author/editor. She has numerous publications, including award-winning Apollo's Lyre. She and her husband and son live in northern California.   She is author of Mean Girls Grown Up (Wiley, 2005).