Writing and therapy are the same from a therapeutic process perspective. When I write, I go through the process of organizing my thoughts and feelings into some coherent narrative that appeals to some human endeavor. The endeavor might be good versus evil, or what would the average man or woman do in extraordinary situations, or maybe it’s how people cope with the trials and tribulations of work, love and life. Ultimately, a good story reflects how characters respond to big questions and barriers.
It’s a big job for the writer to pull it all together. The dialogue must sound genuine and the characters must relate to the reader. Hopefully, the reader will identify with the protagonist and hate the antagonist. Parallel to life itself, the reader feels for the character in their dealing with life situations. The worst thing that can happen is that the reader is neutral or simply doesn’t care about your world, plot and characters.
The adage of “write what you know” has meaning here. As a therapist, my job is to help people understand their own personal narratives. You have to feel for and care about the client. I assist them in understanding their strengths and barriers as people as they deal with the themes of living on the planet. Themes and struggles that range from the benign to the catastrophic. Ultimately the goal of therapy is to help the individual understand their personal narrative in a world that pits them against overwhelming odds. Sometimes it’s good versus evil. Other times it’s struggling with making it to the next day. Still other times it’s about understanding how they got to where they are and where are they’re going next. The narrative is about organizing a person’s life by putting the words to emotions in the situation together. It’s making the person’s stories understandable and coherent. In writing as in therapy.
So remember the next time you write your short story, novella, novel or epic: you’re not just producing a great story, but you’re also doing the therapy of writing, definitely for yourself and probably for your readers.
J. M. Erickson has over twenty-five years clinical experience and works as a senior clinician in a group practice in the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts, and is also a senior instructor teaching psychopathology, counseling & ethics to both graduate and undergraduate students at Cambridge College, Massachusetts. He is also and indie writer and author of Intelligent Design: Revelations, Birds of Flight novel series & Future Prometheus novella series.