Earlier this year, I shared how I had trained to become a Certified Instructor of the Journal to the Self® Workshop. I’m now excited to be partnering with PCI College in Clondalkin to deliver the course and hopefully spread a bit of the journaling magic!
Journal to the Self® is a short journal writing course for personal growth, creative expression and life enhancement. Covering 18 different journal techniques, it was designed and developed by Journal Therapy pioneer Kathleen Adams and is based on her classic book of the same name.
Run in person over 2 Saturdays, the course offers a unique opportunity to engage with what is usually a self-guided exploration in a safe and respectful group setting. It welcomes both newcomers and seasoned journal writers that wish to expand their repertoire of techniques for productive and fulfilling journal writing. It may also appeal to helping professionals like counsellors and psychotherapists, to learn potentially useful tools for both themselves and their clients.
Dates: Sat 11 and Sat 25 March 2023, 9:30 – 16:30
Location: PCI College, Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Price: €200 (discounted rate of €170 available for students/graduates of PCI College’s BSc and postgrad courses)
I’m happy to report that I have completed my most recent training in the field of writing therapy, to become a Certified Instructor of the Journal to the Self® Workshop – the only one in Ireland!
‘Journal to the Self’ by Kathleen Adams is a classic book in the field of personal development, and one that has surely helped thousands upon thousands of people since its publication in 1990. It is also a text that many therapists will be aware of from their training.
The Journal to the Self® Workshop offers a unique opportunity to engage with what is usually a self-guided exploration in a facilitated group setting. This means that the potential benefits of engaging with the book and its various tools for journaling can be bolstered through the additional power of group experience – sharing and being heard, witnessing and being witnessed, or simply being present to a sense of community with others who also use writing and journaling to make sense of things.
Many people (including therapists and clients) that are drawn to the idea of journaling often start with less awareness around the multiple ways this can be done. This 12-hour course introduces participants to 20-odd journaling techniques that can be used in different ways at different times for different scenarios, giving the journal-writer a ‘menu’ to choose from, as opposed to feeling like they must always order the same thing (metaphorically speaking). So for example, where someone might generally write in their journal in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, learning different pathways might prompt them to approach whatever it is they wish to explore from a different perspective, say by creating a dialogue, a list, a word cluster or a timed write. Different approaches can yield different insights, so having various tools in the tool box is likely to be more beneficial than only ever having access to one.
I’m excited to have another workshop opportunity to introduce people to the wonders and many benefits of journaling (or broaden the horizons for those that already do it and are curious to learn more). Watch this space for scheduling announcements!
Following a pandemic-informed hiatus, I am delighted to announce that myself and writer Claire Hennessy will be holding another collaborative workshop on ‘Creative Writing for Self-expression and Wellbeing,’ on Saturday 27 November.
Time: 11:00 – 16:30 (including lunch break)
Fee: €80 (Use the promo code 5T3V8VY for a 25% discount!)
The workshop is ideal for anyone interested in creative writing as a tool to help express themselves and as an activity that can contribute to mental wellbeing (as well as being fun and rewarding in its own right). No previous experience of writing is required and while sharing of work is welcomed, it is never expected.
For further info or to book a place, please visit Big Smoke’s website by clicking the text below:
I am delighted to announce that myself and fellow therapist/lecturer Margaret O’Connor of theAre Kids For Me? counselling service and podcast will be co-facilitating a new one-day writing workshop, ‘Taking the Road Less Travelled: Embracing Your Childfree Life’ on Saturday 26 June through Zoom.
Combining reflective writing, personal development and shared discussion, the workshop is for anyone that has made the choice to be childfree and would like to deepen their awareness of what this means for them.
It aims to provide you with:
A space to connect with others that have also chosen the childfree road in life
A space to reflect on your experiences and feelings in a supportive environment
A space to embrace your identity, values and opportunities related to being childfree
No previous experience of creative or reflective writing is needed
Sharing of words written will be encouraged but always optional
Emphasis is on process and exploration, not the production of polished work
Margaret and I are both passionate about the normalisation of the childfree choice in society and I’m hopeful that our workshop will in some small way contribute to this. Feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested!
In July 2018 I wrote a blog post here about my perception of a link between therapy and punk rock, particularly from a self-esteem point of view. Happy with my effort, the post joined its comrades and, as far as I was concerned, was lying dormant until, last November, I had an out-of-the-blue email from a Canadian fellow called Jason Schreurs telling me he was writing a book and doing a podcast about punk rock and mental health, and would I have time for an interview to talk about my ideas?
As surprised as I was, Jason’s timing was prescient in that I had just the day before been talking to my writing mentor, Meg-John Barker, about potentially taking the DNA of that punky blog post and forging it into some kind of therapeutic writing resource built around a three-pronged attack of resistance, rebellion and reclamation.
Speaking to Jason on Zoom later that week, I was excited and humbled to have been given the opportunity to talk to a likeminded individual (and perceptive interviewer) about my affiliation with punk and its impact on my life. Surveying the wealth of interviews already populating his Scream Therapy podcast site, I was also enthused to see just how many other people Jason had tracked down who shared our take on a connection between punk and mental health, featuring both on-the-ground punk band members and mental health professionals with a punk background of some kind. This was most definitely a project that I was proud to be a part of, and it spurred me on to complete my own, which by now had a definite name – Write Your Revolution.
And so it has come to pass this week, that both the podcast interview and my writing resource have taken their place in two corners of the internet, ready for any interested party who might stumble upon them. As a friend commented after I shared the interview with him, ‘It’s gas how content you create can travel so far and resonate with people so long as it’s real and true.’ As hackneyed as it might sound, if either make an impact of any kind on even one person, then that’s something I’ll happily take with me on the rest of my journey.
Back in October I launched the pilot of this writing group for therapists and I’m both delighted and humbled to say that it was everything I hoped it would be. Myself and that particular group are going to continue meeting on a monthly basis in the new year, and in the meantime I will be starting a new intake from the end of January. Again, the principle aim is to provide a creative peer outlet in which to explore both the personal and professional sides of being a therapist – a mix of individual creativity, self-care and reflective practice, run over six fortnightly sessions.
Each session is 2.5 hours and they generally revolve around two structured writing exercises, with time after each for sharing/listening/discussion. There is a short break halfway through. One exercise will be more towards the personal creativity end of the spectrum, with a greater focus on the participants’ sense of themselves and life in general, without an explicit link to their therapy work (though of course there may organically be some crossover). The other exercise is generally more directly related to the work of being a therapist, say by asking participants to reflect on a specific professional aspect/experience and then using this as a springboard for a particular type of writing.
After each session, I usually provide some kind of handout/reading to participants if there is an area they would like to continue to develop outside of the meetings. Participation at all six sessions is not essential but there is a deliberate flow over the course of the days, so for group cohesion and to get the full breadth of the experience full attendance is preferable whenever possible.
There is a flyer with more detail below – click the orange text to download as pdf. If you are interested, please get in touch and/or share! First session will be Sat 30 January and all sessions will be delivered through Zoom.
This is a bit of a mouthful, but I recently had the opportunity to write about writing therapy for writing.ie – and now that the writing is done, it is available to read at the above link. Many thanks to Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin for the invitation – I feel this is a good synthesis of my feelings towards the medium and it features sound punctuation to boot (according to my retired journalist father!). If you would like to explore the idea of writing in therapy, do get in touch.
I recently read this fab article by Holly Williams: ‘How Björk has helped me heal from heartbreak’ – concerning the author’s relationship with Björk’s 1997 album ‘Homogenic’ and its ‘remarkable remedial power.’ To me, there’s always been something beautiful around the idea of an artist’s creative output exerting an empathic healing quality far outside its own parameters, and this article prompted me to reflect on my own journey with Björk over the years. In the past few weeks, I have been particularly drawn to the 2007 track ‘Wanderlust’:
The lyrics marry well with the landscape I find myself in now – embarking on a journey into full-time therapy provision, to also incorporate therapeutic writing group work. Drawing on David Byrne, I might ask myself ‘How did I get here?’ – and surprisingly, there is a fairly simple answer. Like Björk, I have in my adult life always been drawn to a need for movement and space, where new ideas, ways of being, experiences and so on can take seed and grow – pretty in keeping with the dictionary definition of ‘Wanderlust’ as ‘A strong desire to travel.’
The phrase she uses, ‘relentless restlessness,’ perhaps contains something of a double-edged quality – on paper at least, the idea of being ‘relentlessly restless’ might not sound too comfortable, but it is the core ethos behind this that speaks to me – not so much a sense of nomadic rootlessness but a liberating state of always being open to the next step of the journey and the challenges it may bring. When she says ‘I feel at home whenever the unknown surrounds me,’ there is a sense of unbridled possibility and courageousness – to stare a path shrouded in fog in the face and not only keep walking, but to do so with joy, anticipation, even a sense of belonging.
I am reminded here of the innumerable journeys I have been on with my clients over these past several years, and how their willingness to take those steps into the unknown (often so terrifying to start off with) are the foundations of every single thing they will subsequently build in their inner and outer landscapes. At some point or other, the fear may indeed morph into something closer to what Björk describes – comfort in the movement, even a sense of adventure as the path continues to evolve and new features pop up along the way. I suppose this is my hope for myself now, too – but of course only time will tell what the landscape will look like in the years to come. Whatever it may be, I am heartened that its origin lay in a spirit of creativity and movement… or, simply put, wanderlust.
A new venture! On the back of my studies in creative writing for therapeutic purposes, I am hoping over the next few months to trial a 6-session writing group designed specifically for counsellors/psychotherapists. The principle aim would be to provide a creative peer outlet in which to explore both the personal and professional sides of being a therapist – a mix of individual creativity, self-care and reflective practice.
After core training there isn’t always a huge amount of courses, workshops, etc. available that focus on personal development for therapists so this group would hopefully bridge that gap a little, while giving space to reflect on professional development also.
There is a flyer with more detail below – click the orange text to download as pdf. If you are interested, please get in touch! First session will (hopefully) be Sunday 20 September at Insight Matters, 106 Capel St, Dublin 1.
It’s been a long time since I published much on this blog, which is interesting considering that I have been writing for enjoyment and nourishment in my spare time probably more than ever. A lot of this is down to the creative/reflective/therapeutic writing studies I have been pursuing. The course I am currently doing, a Practitioner Certificate in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (or CWTP, for those who like acronyms), has brought in on a few occasions an old Japanese friend of mine, the haiku. I always had a fondness for these little fragmentary moments, as well as their slightly longer sibling, the tanka.
The haiku traditionally comprises 3 lines and 17 syllables, in a 5-7-5 pattern (i.e. 5 syllables for line #1, 7 for line #2, and 5 again for line #3). The tanka builds on this foundation and adds another 2 lines, each containing 7 syllables (a 5-7-5-7-7 pattern), bringing it up to 31 syllables in total.
What I always loved about these poems was their fierce individuality in capturing a feeling or mood or moment in time – the language I might gravitate towards to try and pinpoint the essence of one of these will be so unique to me that no one else, no matter how similar in character or personal history we might otherwise be, will be able to transmit that sense in quite the same way, simply because they are not me, and vice versa. These tiny poems’ particular ability to highlight the beauty of diversity in our human experience is, to me, very special.
In a nod to Pride, I am dedicating this knowingly rebellious 32-syllable (!) tanka to the celebration of diversity and wonderful, unapologetic uniqueness: