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Multimedia creative writing including poetry and memoirs as therapy

30+ Brain-Exercising Creativity Coach Businesses to Open: How to Use Writing, Music, Drama & Art Therapy Techniques for Healing - Anne Hart
1. Multimedia Writing as Therapy

2. Expressive Writing Therapies: Interactive Multimedia Writing/Scripting from the Inner Self as Expressive Therapy

3. Interactive Multimedia Therapy


Creative writing therapy using interactive multimedia measures emotive writing from the inner self and analyzes feelings, then measures the range of change, the arc of embark, or growth in a script. 


The trained creative writing therapist, much like the trained poetry therapist, serves as partner with the attending psychotherapist in a program to help a client, especially a survivor of abuse, trauma, spouse battering, incest, or low-self esteem conditioning to measure his or her own range of change or growth from the beginning of the story or script to the end. The acting psychotherapist in partner with the creative writing therapist gives periodical evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the procedures employed by the creative writing therapist using interactive multimedia. 


Who Works with a Creative Writing Therapist? 

Subjects attending an accredited facility for the treatment of mental disorders who until recently worked only with poetry therapists and their psychologists or counselors, now work with other expressive therapists. Universities offer graduate degrees and/or certification in the various expressive therapies: art therapy, drama therapy, dance therapy, music therapy, poetry therapy, or cartoon and caricature therapy. With the advent of the Web, multimedia therapy applies many media. 


Since the advent of interactive multimedia using entertainment as learning and learning as therapy, inner personal journaling has become popular as a means to self-growth and self-expression used in a therapeutic setting. Poetry therapy has been extended to bibliotherapy, and finally to creative writing and scriptwriting therapy--with or without interactive multimedia. 


With interactive multimedia, the videobiography form can be used to place one's autobiography on videotape and then transfer the videotape scene to a computer disk. Once on the computer, the video can be accompanies by sound, music, written text, and animation, cartoons, photographs, illustrations, or other graphics by use of a scanner. 


Classes in interactive multimedia have worked closely with creative writing departments so that autobiographical screenplays can be transferred to computers, to discs, or otherwise incorporated into desktop video and desktop publishing programs. 


Anyone with access to a computer and/or camcorder can create an autobiography or other slice of life story therapeutically, and put it all on one computer disk to play back and study for range of change or self-growth process over a time period. 

Creative writing therapy itself, even without access to interactive multimedia technologies such as video and computer, includes short stories, screenplays, stage plays, diaries, journals, novels, essays, comics and cartoons with captions, and autobiographies. 


The writing, either fantasy or nonfiction portrays the participants life problems and solutions or resolutions, or outcomes focused on showing growth as concrete facts using the five senses plus intuition or imagination.  Diaries or journals are used extensively with creative writing therapy. A participant may choose to write a book on the diaries of women, for example, asking the question: Why do women write concrete details of day to day life in diaries? 


Participants working with creative writing therapists may include the mental health consumer, the child, teenagers involved in dating violence predicaments, and senior citizens gathering their life story or videobiography on paper, through interactive multimedia on disk, or on video or audio tape. 


When I taught creative writing to seniors, they preferred the format on voice over from audio tape combined with family slides and photographs scanned on computer disk to accompany the text they wrote, their autobiography, short stories or poetry. 

Some participants preferred writing screenplays or stage plays--master scripts, in which they wrote the dialogue they remembered. They created creative writing scrapbooks in multimedia form--stories, poetry, artwork, photographs, scripts, an audiotape, and a videotape of them interviewed about their life experiences by another participant in the class. 


This type of creative oral history therapy worked well, especially with Holocaust survivors in their seventies who wanted to pass on their experiences to their grandchildren as well as donate a copy of themselves being interviewed on videotape to one of the Holocaust memorial museums. 


Creative writing therapy works well with battered spouses and incest victims. I recommend the book, Dreaming In Color, by Charlotte Vale Allen (Doubleday, NY, 1993) to be used to stimulate feelings and the desire to write in a lyrical manner about family dynamics. 


Creative writing therapy, with our without interactive multimedia, facilitates personal growth and self-development. It's an ideal tool to help people write about self-esteem and self-concept. It has its place among the expressive therapies. 


What's a Creative Writing Therapist? Bibliotherapist? 


In 1977, a Federal Title, classification 601, was created for bibliotherapists to be hired. Poetry therapists undertook 440 hours of the study of poetry therapy became eligible for the newly created position, according to the National Association for Poetry Therapy located presently at 7715 White Rim Terrace, Potomac, MD. 20854 (301) 299-8330. (Peggy Osna Heller, President, --as listed in the 1994 Encyclopedia of Associations.) 


The Association publishes a quarterly for Poetry Therapy called the A.P.T. News. It's estimated that thousands of professionals use poetry therapy.  

The requirements for a "trainee in poetry therapy" include graduation from an accredited college with a degree in the humanities or behavioral sciences. Equivalent credit may be granted for combination of completed college courses and experience in a recognized institution.  


There should be evidence of concentration in poetry covering the primitive, classical, post-renaissance, modern, and avant-garde writing. The trainee must be accepted into a mental health program as a volunteer or paid employee under professional supervision.


 As a poetry therapist, you must not exaggerate your own importance in the therapeutic team. Certification allows you to put a C.P.T. (Certified Poetry Therapist) designation after your name. Training programs in poetry therapy and bibliotherapy are offered through the National Association for Poetry Therapy and through other private schools. 


There are several poetry therapy institutes. The New School for Social Research in New York City offered training programs in poetry therapy and bibliotherapy.

One poetry therapist, Don Theye, has a motto: "Observe, absorb, create, share." A book, A Seminar on Bibliotherapy: Proceedings by Dr. Franklin M. Berry, a psychology professor, was offered by the Library School, University of Wisconsin, Helen White Hall, 600 N. Park, Madison, WI, 53706. 


For guidelines to poetry therapy and book lists, write: J.B. Lippincott, Co., East Washington Sq., Philadelphia, PA 19105. Of interest are the pioneer books written in the sixties and seventies, such as Poetry Therapy, by Dr. Jack J. Leedy (1969), and Poetry, the Healer, Dr. Jack J. Leedy (1973).


 You also could take poetry therapy a step further and use the entire spectrum of creative writing therapy--focusing on story, novel, playwriting, and screenwriting (scriptwriting). I transfer the writing to interactive fiction. The purpose of using interactive multimedia fiction is to create branching narratives.


The story has many branching middle parts, all converging on the same, successful, self-growth ending. The writer then measures the range of change that has occurred for a positive ending. Have you tried interactive fiction as therapy? One approach is to have the person think of as many alternatives as possible in order to write the branching narratives.


The reader or interactive multimedia partner/game player can choose as many alternative middles and endings as he or she wants, or choose the same ending with branching middle parts or narratives. The writer must think in three dimensions to write interactive multimedia and use it therapeutically. Poetry may be used, or may be illustrated with text, music, animation, or graphics. But the story does have many endings or middles that branch. That's the whole idea. 


Choose one, choose many, play the computer game. It's your life story. When you've played the interactive multimedia computer game which you can save either on disc or other technology, you can measure your growth and choose the branch that you prefer.  You also can save many people's stories, personal and family history, or life experiences  on one disc, on other format, or on a small external drive that can be transferred to different forms of technology as time passes and older technology becomes too difficult to find or use. 


Interactive multimedia fiction writing also can be used as is or turned into a computer game. The computer game industry in 1992 was a ten billion-dollar business that's continuing on the rise in different formats as technology changes. 


If a participant doesn't have a computer, interactive fiction can still be written as a master script with many branches, many middles, many endings, or the same ending. The reader can choose to be interactive merely by reading the book or story. You don't need a computer to choose alternative endings to a story. But this technique is at the heart of interactive broadcast cinema. 


Use different types of technology or websites, recorders, audio files, and video recordings to create multicasting and multimedia biographies for the web or for a various types of audio or video players, podcasts, vodcasts, or Internet audio and video broadcasts. For example, with the written permission of everyone being interviewed in video or audio, you can record conferences or interviews online, for example, at family, work, or school reunions. Even novels and plays may be put onto many formats and narrated or broadcast and recorded with live players.  


Any therapist or expressive therapy partner to a therapist working with clients or writers for self-growth can put people's stories onto a disc or other external drive-type format that holds virtually an encyclopedia of text, sound, music, digital video segments, and pictures or animation. 


Poetry as a road to the inner mind 


Dr. Jack J. Leedy wrote, "Poetry is simply a road to the unconscious." Leedy pioneered the field of poetry therapy. A psychiatrist at Brooklyn-Cumberland Medical Center, New York, and director of the Poetry Therapy Center, when his books were published in the sixties and seventies, Leedy stated, "When a patient writes his own poem or chooses one from a book, it's a way for him to express something he can't get out any other way." 


According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, "In Poetry, There Could Be Reason As Well As Rhyme," (March 13, 1975), Dr. Leedy is interested more in the person "getting the feeling out" than in rhythm, rhyme, or punctuation. 


Poetry therapists use rhyme as a part of the total treatment plan. Dr. Leedy stated that poetry therapy "could be the crucial factor as other things start to fail." Leedy edited two books on poetry therapy as a healing agent. He used poetry as a diagnostic tool and as treatment. (For example, suicidal tendencies often become apparent in poems.)  

Leedy told the Wall Street Journal in 1975, "Poetry can make a patient feel relaxed and relieve his tensions by being a safety valve for actual confrontation. We can look at peptic ulcers and other psychosomatic symptoms as simply poems struggling to be born." 


What I use in creative writing therapy with multimedia, an offshoot of poetry therapy, is sensitivity searching. I'm looking for sensitivity to come to the surface. 

I start a story, screenplay, novel, or poem, and let the individual finish the alternative, interactive, branching endings. Or I start a poem and let the client finish the alternate  lines.  


For example, if a spousal abuser receives his/her own spouse's poem or story, it lets the therapist know whether the individual is measuring a personal range of change or growth from the beginning of the story to the end. Measuring the range of change works with all types of therapies. The person doesn't have to be an abuser, avoider, dependent, victimized, or compulsive. 


The lines in a story or poem, or even in a videobiography or autobiography are keyed as the person used to be. Measuring the range of change allows the writer to choose an alternative branch and play the game (or read the story) and interact. The goal is to find out whether the person will write about how he or she is at present, will be in the future, or at the end of the story--when the character's growth or change can be measured. 


The further the writer has to come or grow between the beginning and the story and the end is the emotional arc. The writer can plot that high arc. It's the range of change or growth of the lead character--the self. Do other characters also grow in the story? I ask of the writer. 


Writing creatively as therapy forces a person to think and feel what all this means to that person. Creative writing therapy builds on creative feelings. Clients are called writers. They're writing life stories.  


They can keep diaries, journals, write scripts, stories, plays, or novels, or even write and illustrate comic strips or transfer the pictures and text to computer disk and work with a programmer side by side to create a computer game of their life story with branches, or alternative endings or middle story parts. 


For battered women and men, creative writing therapy using interactive multimedia or pen and paper, the writing reveals generations of abuse in families. It opens the subject of family dynamics for discussion, for using creative intuition with the five senses to create concrete stories. 


Poems, stories, scripts, and games are analyzed, discussed, and examined. They're examined in the light of how the piece of creative writing or poem influences the person, how it makes one feel. The feel it, heal it approach is combined with the think it, analyze it method. 


The point is not to analyze the creative writing to critique and evaluate it as a piece of writing, but to analyze how it affects the writer's own feelings. Writers may sit on pillows on the floor and write in a coffee house environment, or may collaborate with computer programmers and animators, video producers, or illustrators to go interactive multimedia when the script is finished. 


The whole idea again, is to emphasize how the work of creativity affects the writer's feelings. The idea behind creative writing therapy is to search out how you feel and put it down in one media or another. It's optional to choose branch endings, branching narratives in the middle, or whether or not to make a computer game, novel, story, teleplay, video, radio play, or graphic novel-comic book, out of the script when finished. 


Some people are happy with writing their feelings as a poem. Others want to write an entire life story or experience as a novel or computer game with many alternative choices. They want to create an interactive computer game on video disc or other technology. They want their text illustrated, and they want sound and action.


Others want a videobiography on industrial quality video recording. For others, a radio play on audio from a script is preferred. Still others want to write a romance novel or suspense novel or story, essay, or novelette. 


Battered women sometimes choose to create a comic strip expressing their feelings and illustrating it with cartoons. Many wish to write about their relationships having no close ties. Isolation and abuse is a frequent theme. 


Poetry therapy often works well with harried executives whose employers give them an hour or two free in the afternoon to take off their shoes in the corporate lounge and analyze how their writing influences their feelings on subjects from domestic violence caused by swing shift stress to trauma as a result of workplace violence or preventing workplace distress caused by personality type conflicts. 


Similar types in approach and outlook when seeking solutions also can be sorted into groups that work together on creative writing projects. Which traits appear to work best together in writing projects dealing with novels and screenplays or other scripts?

Which traits work best on expressing life stories as interactive videos?


Which approaches work better by teaming up with programmers and computer illustrators to create an interactive multimedia computer game, often using scripts (text) written by those who relax by writing what feels most comfortable? Some people like the oral storytelling and novel format for listening on tape or live broadcast. These writing teams work well in a corporate setting. 


Poets can ask to be in residence at large corporations (or schools) to show employees or students how to use poetry therapy  in the workplace or classroom at certain times 


In 1975, the Wall Street Journal reported that Arthur Lerner, a psychology professor at Los Angeles City College, recommended that poets be in residence at large corporations. There's a place in the corporate world for the poetry therapist to show employees how to use poetry therapy in the workplace. 


Dr Jack Leedy wrote that he believed specific poems will be prescribed for certain ailments or problems. Poetry, and I believe all forms of creative writing, helps people learn how to make choices--decisions--when they use the writing experience to see how it effects their own feelings. 


Writing therapy needs at least two approaches and applications 


 In poetry therapy, and in creative writing therapy, sometimes there are two therapists: The poetry therapist and the supervising psychotherapist. A simulated family setting may be created to have two authority figures for balance. Is writing using expressive therapies more like righting or more like riding therapy, as in finding your balance and pace? 


With two authority figures, there are subtle psychological differences between the therapists. One will be seen as more aggressive and masculine, and the other as more protective and feminine. You need the balance: The Yin-Yang, anima-animus, male-female, nurturing-logical balance with creative writing therapy. 


It's really not a good cop/bad cop skit you're playing in a psychodrama. What you want is to have the writer see the subtle psychological differences between the two authority figures and examine it by writing--to get the juices flowing, the writing unblocked. 


In poetry therapy, the poems selected express feelings thought to be troubling member of the group. Dr. Menninger, the psychoanalyst, once wrote that, "Psychiatrists realize from clinical experience what poets have proclaimed in inspired verse, that to retreat permanently into the loneliness of one's own soul is to surrender one's claim upon life." 


This same method is used for creative writing therapy in general--with stories, essays, novel chapters, or scripts. Copies of poems or stories chosen by therapists are distributed to group members. Short stories are short-shorts, less than 1,000 words. Poems are of average length. The poems or short stories are read and discussed. Shorter novel chapters also can be examined in this way. Later comes the writing of poetry or short stories or cartoons with textual captions. 


You can  use cartoon and caricature "therapy" for creativity enhancement or comic strips with teams of writers and artists working together on individual stories. Emphasis is on what feelings the action story provokes. For battered wives, the emphasis is on what happens just prior to, during, and after the episode. 


The wives' cartoons are read and discussed in a separate group for wife batterers. The men are asked to create by collage or writing and cartooning their own comic strip with themselves as the superhero character.  


Their low self esteem and low impulse control is often played out in the superhero action adventure comic book they create and may put to interactive multimedia computer game. With the help of volunteer students of programming, these computer games may help the men become involved in learning digital multimedia as well as finding out why they feel so bad about themselves and fear abandonment, and why they hit instead of work toward a range of change (an arc of embark) in their personal screenplays or projects, whether verbal or spatial. 


The main question the therapists ask is "how do you feel about this?" The therapist is aware of symbolism and psychological themata in poetry or story writing.  

In White Goddess, a book about the poetic process, poet Robert Graves writes, "The pathology of poetic composition is no secret. A poet finds himself caught in some baffling emotional problem which is of such urgency that it sends him into a sort of trance. And in this trance his mind works, with astonishing boldness and precision on several imaginative levels at once. 


"The poem is either a practical answer to his problem or else it is a clear statement of it; and a problem clearly stated is half way to solution. Some poets are more plagued by others with emotional problems, and more conscientious in working out poems which arise from them--that is more attentive in their service then the Muse." 


Thinking and feeling in three dimensions 


In interactive multimedia scriptwriting, you can take Grave's idea of working the mind on several imaginative levels at once and channel the process into writing in branching narratives, branching alternative pathways. This idea of thinking in three dimensions in order to write helps to examine how the writing affects feelings of resilience.  


The alternative branching pathways allow the writer to make choices, to grow, and to measure the range of change (the arc of embark). Your goal might be to transcend past choices and move on to decisions that are healthier and mindful in the long run because they encourage your inner voice of confidence and resilience.


Graves believed that "poetry is formed by the supralogical reconciliation of conflicting emotional ideas during a trancelike suspension of normal habits of thought." In psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Leedy's book, Poetry, the Healer, he writes that Graves, the poet, advises us that the poet "learns to induce the trance in self-protection whenever he feels unable to resolve an emotional conflict by simple logic." 


Dr. Leedy explains in Poetry, the Healer, that when poet, Robert Graves had once experienced an emotional breakdown during military service, Graves's physician, Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, theorized that "every neurotic system, like dreams, was at once the product of a mental conflict and an attempt to resolve it." Dr. Rivers believed poems functioned in the same way.


Graves studied his own poetry and then wrote, "My hope was to help the recovery of public health of mind as well as my own by the writing of therapeutic poems." If poems can be therapeutic, Many other forms of writing can be therapeutic as well, particularly the writing of stories, novels, and screenplays.


Graves wanted poetry to be used as "a form of psychotherapy" for emotional problems. You may wish to use interactive multimedia writing, autobiography writing, and true life experience screenplay writing used as a form of psychotherapy. 


Graves also wrote that poetry could be used as much for prevention as for the cure of emotional disturbances. Graves recommended for starting, "a well-chosen anthology." Morris Robert Morrison, writing in J.J. Leedy's book Poetry, the Healer, stated that Graves wrote that the rhythm of a poem puts the reader "in a hypnotic trance."


Morrison states, "He is confronted with an allegorical solution of the problem that has been troubling him. His unconscious accepts the allegory as applicable to his own condition; the emotional crisis is relieved." 


Frederick C. Prescott's The Poetic Mind, a study of how a poet's mind works, recognizes poetry therapy. This book relates Freud to literature and makes literature into an unconscious autobiography. The autobiography becomes a work of writing that is disguised wish fulfillment. 


On page 87 of Poetry the Healer, J.J. Leedy refers to poetry as "the great universal hypnotic, the all-time mind-altering drug," and "as a healing process based on self-analysis." I use the entire spectrum of creative fact-as-fiction writing therapy to give the writer self-mastery skills over the environment. I have them write fact as fiction and  fiction as fact. 


Creative writing therapy keeps the base firmly rooted in reality and is both personal and universal. Writing is a safe expression of feelings. Writing can be oral, put on tape, and later transcribed. Writing therapy counterbalances fears.  


It's helpful for working through feelings about situations such as being agoraphobic, being a battered spouse, or in a teenage violent dating relationships, being an incest survivor, being over 55 an unable to find work due to discrimination against the aging, or entering a new stage of life. All life is a script.  


Some people prefer to use logic to make choices. They may approach problems differently than people who use personal values to make decisions,  You could assign the individuals with different approaches to solving problems in writing according to their preferences regarding the way they approach and handle the steps leading to their conclusions and outlooks. 


Poems or song writing may work with one type of person, but writing a story or a romance novel may work with another. Writing a teleplay works better with some types, and writing an interactive multimedia computer game script works with others.  

Oral types may prefer videobiographies, and non-verbal writers may prefer to write a book of cartoons and illustrate the cartoons by clip collage, scanning photos onto a disk, drawing the cartoons, or using thumb prints or stick figures to animate. 

Creative writing therapy works well with children.


Oral biographies or experiences on audio or video tape can be transcribed and the children taught to read by hearing and seeing their own stories on computer screen or typed and put into book form using desktop publishing software or text and pop-up book formats. The writing in a script must always be concrete and sensual before it can be rationalized to the abstract. One doesn't say one is shy, one says, "I took a sudden interest in my sneakers."  


In a script, as in scriptwriting therapy, the writing must show the feelings to tell the story. For inspiration and motivation, read your favorite passages from Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. That book reveals one of the finest inner-reflection-expressive-writing styles with confidence and resilience that includes archetypes in nature that profoundly inspire the creative process. The material on nature opens doors to creativity enhancement by the choice of words and imagery that touch and convince. 



Writing expressively for the Web also may be called HYPERTEXT WRITING OR

CONTENT WRITING in poetry therapy and creative writing of videobiography for the web. Use multicasting and Web multimedia as a therapeutic tool in context with other therapies.  

Videobiographies can be taped, recorded, or the text and graphics can be formatted with hypertext linking of universal archetypes. Write in three dimensions to arrive at circular maps of the archetypes. Right brain hemisphere navigation can be combined with left-brain chronological recording of events.