Therapist Caroline Macrory's Self-Discovery Lesson on the Power of Therapeutic Writing
Many people only think of talk therapy. However, today more therapists, myself included, are turning to other modalities to help individuals express themselves. I reached out and invited Caroline Macrory to enlighten us all about the healing powers of therapeutic writing.
Caroline Macrory(MA Psych Hons) is a psychologist and therapist who has worked in Australia and the UK. She has specialised in working with clients who have experienced trauma and those with mental health issues. Caroline has two young children and is particularly interested in supporting others to tackle the myriad of challenges that often accompany parenthood. Caroline advocates the importance of continuing to find time and space for writing, personal reflection, mindfulness and self-development amidst the demands of family life.
Caroline and her colleague Jenna Mayhew founded Write as Rain, Written Word Therapyin 2012. Write as Rain is a unique service that supports people to move forward through the power of writing. It offers individuals the opportunity to write to a therapist rather than see one face-to-face, thereby providing a flexible, convenient and effective form of therapeutic intervention. Write as Rain also offers workshops and individual consultations in therapeutic writing.
Jenna and Caroline are about to release their first ebook, Mindful Goal Setting: A Smarter Approach. This programme incorporates techniques such as mindfulness and expressive writing to support people to understand and attain their true life goals. Read Caroline's interview below! Feel free to ask any questions about the process.
Why do you believe self-expression (speaking from the heart) is important?
I believe that speaking from the heart and being true to oneself is central to the therapeutic processes of growth, healing and personal development.
Having worked as a psychologist and therapist for many years, I have found that genuine self-expression is an essential pre-requisite to making meaningful positive changes in one’s life.
I have also learnt that self-expression does not have to mean talking. Individuals express themselves in many different ways and respond to different types of therapies. Expressive therapies are a range of therapies that recognise that not everyone expresses himself or herself most effectively or authentically through speech; so they use other forms of self-expression – for example music therapy, art therapy, dance and movement therapy, play therapy and writing therapy.
My work is focused on supporting people toexpress themselves through writing. In other words, I help people to benefit from the process of putting their thoughts, feelings and experiences into the written word.
How has writing empowered you in other areas of your life?
Having written a journal since I was about eight years old, I have always found writing an empowering and enlightening experience, as well as a fantastic tool to reflect on past experiences and consider future paths.
More recently, I realised that writing can be a healing and therapeutic process, and found that there is almost 30 years of research demonstrating the physical and emotional benefits of using writing as a form of self-expression.
These discoveries led to myself and my colleague, Jenna Mayhew, establishing a service that specialises in helping people move forward using writing. Write as Rain provides an online therapy service that focuses on the benefits of expressive writing, and we also run workshops and individual sessions on therapeutic writing.
The work we do through Write as Rain has continued to empower us in many ways. Writing provides us with a platform to communicate with our clients and support their healing and development. In addition to this, we are about to release our first ebook: Mindful Goal Setting – A Smarter Approach. This is a programme that incorporates techniques such as mindfulness and expressive writing to support people to understand and attain their true life goals.
How did you find your authentic voice through writing?
I had always suspected that writing was a useful tool for personal self-development. However, it is only since I began to guide and support others through the process of expressive writing that I truly found my authentic voice.
Expressive or therapeutic writing is simply defined as the use of writing as a form of self-expression. It is such a simple, yet powerful technique.
Through Write as Rain I have learnt so many new techniques that have allowed me to continue my journey of genuine self-expression through writing, as well as supporting others to do the same.
How did you develop the courage to stand tall (i.e., get the courage to share your writing)?
The wonderful response we have had to Write as Rain and the ongoing support from others inspires me to keep encouraging others to experience the incredible benefits of writing.
When it comes to expressive writing however, the aim is not necessarily to share your writing, but rather to share the journey of transforming your experience into words.
So when we write to our clients and run expressive writing groups, we tell people that it is important to write only for themselves - not for anyone else. When it comes to writing about personal events, the belief that others may read our writing is likely to influence how we express ourselves.
Expressive writing is very different from writing to get published in this respect. Rather than the actual words people write, we encourage others to share their thoughts and feelings about the writing process and how this impacts on their personal growth, healing and development.
When you have a hard time writing, what do you do to work through it?
If I’m struggling to start writing, I often find that it’s because I’m so distracted with day-to-day occurrences – my mind is racing and I’m thinking about what’s just been happening, what I have to do later, what’s on my ‘to do’ list and so on. So I usually try to do some mindfulness writing, for example following the pointers below:
- Turn inwards for a moment and focus on your feelings right at this instant.
- Write about how you feel physically (notice tensions in your body).
- Notice your thoughts and emotions.
- Write it all down.
I often find that a simple mindfulness writing exercise like this helps to ground me, stills my mind and allows me to be present in the moment. Once I have done this, self-expression and writing comes much more easily.
How did you find your support group?
At Write as Rain, we are lucky to have an incredible and loyal support group.
Our family and friends have helped us with all the challenges involved in setting up a new service – providing feedback as well as plenty of encouragement during the tough times.
Many of our supporters are those who have personally found solace in the written word and want to continue exploring the many benefits of writing.
We have also been contacted by a number of other professionals in the field who are keen to start using writing with their own clients.
We have a number of expert affiliates who also provide us with guidance and support on an on-going basis.
Any advice for new writers/authors?
If you are feeling tentative about expressing yourself through writing and are a little unsure about where to begin, don’t push yourself too hard. Try some short, gentle exercises to start with and see where it takes you.
Begin by writing about something more concrete, such as the weather or your favourite food. As you begin to express yourself more easily, try writing about a childhood holiday or your favourite subject at school, opening the door for exploring deeper feelings and emotions. Remember though - don’t write about a difficult or emotionally charged topic before you're ready. If it's too much, leave it for another day.
Don’t worry about spelling, grammar or style of writing and try not to censor or critique your writing.
Finally, always try to reflect over your writing. Ask yourself if anything surprising or unexpected has come up in your writing and whether you gained any new insights.
Thanks for speaking from your heart and empowering others, Caroline! Keep up the fantastic work supporting people to express themselves through writing!
Have any questions about the writing therapy process? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Ask away!
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See you at the beach!