Local News

Patients Get the "Write" Kind of Therapy

Posted July 22, 2000

— It is not always surgery or state-of the-art treatment that helps ease the pain for patients at Duke Medical Center.

Writing therapy can heal the hurt because, sometimes, a patient's best medicine is in their own words.

It is never fun to be in the hospital -- especially on your 9th birthday. But bone marrow transplant patient Clay Rucker is receiving a special gift to help get through this experience -- a journal in which to write.

"The process of writing is very much a release -- what I call a 'controlled catharsis,'" says Virginia Holman.

She is the literary arts coordinator at Duke Hospital. She believes writing is therapeutic -- especially for young patients, who are often in the hospital for weeks or even months at a time. She suggests they write poems about their favorite places.

"It takes their words and their feelings and gives them immediate access to a place that makes them happy," she explains.

Parents and other family members can also find comfort in writing. Holman says it can relieve stress. When they are frustrated or angry, she suggests they write three pages in a row, as fast as they can.

"To get as much of it out as they can and when they're done writing those three pages, to turn the pages and not to go back and read them -- not that day, not three weeks later, not six weeks later," Holman says.

She says sometimes it helps to tear out those pages and throw them away.

But for kids, it is often fun to read back the poems they write -- and remember happier times.

A study printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that many patients who write about their stress get well faster than those who do not write.

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