MSc Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes

Programme Leader

Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) is a growing field of research and practice. This course aims to prepare students for the challenges and demands of working in the field of CWTP. The core values of the course are humanistic and person-centred, emphasising people’s potential for growth, change and movement in a positive direction in their lives.

A Bristol based course offering the option of a one year part-time non-clinical PGCert, or non-clinical PGDip on completion of a further part-time year. Participants then have the option to complete a research dissertation and obtain the MSc award

Time commitment: The programme is taught over 10 weekends per academic year, in each of the first two years. Participants may choose to undertake a research project in Year Three.

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Visiting Lecturer in Medical Humanities

Developing student awareness of people’s experiences and emotions in health and illness through the arts and the therapeutic value of the arts in clinical practice.

These sessions give an overview of the domain of Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP), applications and research. Students have the opportunity to reflect on moments of change/learning through creative writing, in order to increase their understanding and awareness of the potential of creative writing. Writing and sharing within the group is part of this experiential session.

Word Power and Reflective Skills for Nursing Students

Boosting confidence in narrating practical and professional experience.

Word power and reflective writing are important skill for nurses preparing for practical work and reporting from the field. During this session, Claire encourages visual narrative and writing in poetic form to build confidence in reflective practice.

Counselling Summer School

As part of the Foundation Degree in Counselling, Claire facilitates a Creative Therapeutic Writing Summer School. This week-long programme supports students to explore their relationship, with language, metaphor, imagery and the use of creative writing: in the counselling encounter; for reflective practice and for personal development.

Claire is an assessor for APEL applications and the MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes, which employs a range of social science methodologies, including Narrative Inquiry, Poetic Inquiry, Autoethnography, Action Research, Phenomenological and Heuristic Inquiry.

For a doctorate in Creative Writing, Claire is researching ‘Writing the 21st Century Bereavement Novel’, looking at the work of Melvyn Bragg, Kiran Desai, Nathan Filer, Alice Oswald, Max Porter, and Preti Taneja, and completing her own novel, The Scarab Bookshop.

‘Righting the Self: Life sustaining effects of writing’ was the topic of Claire’s Masters dissertation. Looking particularly at the work of Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf, Claire explored the phenomenological and psychotherapeutic effects of writing

‘The socialisation of the young in literature’ was the topic of Claire’s undergraduate dissertations, exploring the work of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Antonia White.

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The 5th British Autoethnography conference

Poetics: a form for surviving bereavement by suicide (Claire Williamson)

An empty catkin
has shed all its golden pollen
given everything up
like good boy

This combination of poetry and cultural contextualising presents the case for poetics as a form for autoethnographic writing after bereavement by suicide.

I was already working as a poet when my brother took his own life in January 2003 and found poetic expression to be a place where silence was subverted to ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant’ (Emily Dickinson). The landscape of poetics: metaphor, imagery, characters, voices and reflection provide a creative context in which to inhabit. Poems in my books, Ride On (PoTA Press, 2005) and Visiting the Minotaur (Seren, 2018) explore the aftermath of suicide. With a narrative element to both collections, they interrogate topics such as shame, guilt, blame, violence, memory and the legacies that live on.

Writing Recoveries, Glasgow 21-23 March 2018

Risk and Safety in writing for wellbeing and beyond

Aims and Objectives of session:

  • To raise awareness about risk and safety in writing for wellbeing and beyond
  • To consider protected spaces for writing and reflection
  • Share some ideas about motives for writing
  • Share some tips for creating a safe workshop space
  • Explore ideas on ethics and facilitator responsibilities

Creative Bridges 2017

A Fine Balance: Preparing and Supporting the Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) Practitioner.

CWTP is a skilled profession, requiring therapeutic and literary sensibilities, CWTP specific knowledge and the ability to facilitate a research-informed, safe and inspirational environment. This workshop will suggest key elements of preparation and support for CWTP practitioners, and ask: How do CWTP practitioners attain, maintain and develop their competence?

English Shared Futures 2017

How Can Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) Support People to Improve their Mental Health?

The focus of this panel is the application of Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP) in the UK. With the government facing growing mental health issues, an arts and health agenda is emerging. Lapidus is the UK organisation that provides networks and information for people interested in writing for wellbeing.

Metanoia Institute provides a Masters-level course in CWTP to prepare writers for the challenges of working at this growing edge ( Many writers take up residencies in institutions where people may have a history of trauma (e.g. prisons) and need appropriate support to assess competence and find appropriate interventions for vulnerable people.

Creative Writing students often draw on their own histories, whether requested to ‘write about what you know…’ or not. As Micheline Wandor (2004) raises, there are pedagogic issues around teachers managing groups where students use themselves as subject. Meanwhile, creative writing students find that outcomes from their studies inform contemporary social issues.

Some counsellors and psychotherapists use creative writing activities and bibliotherapy to support client expression (Hedges, 2005) and creative arts are being incorporated in some therapeutic trainings.

The medical profession are looking towards patient narratives for information on treating patients (Baruch, 2013) and creative reflective practice has become an important strand in medical training on medical courses (e.g. School of Social and Community Medicine – University of Bristol)

This panel aims to open up the questions and ethics of CWTP and hopes to bridge some of the, at times, uncomfortable divide between creative writing and CWTP.

Arts, Culture and Health International Conference


Developing an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes

In response to both an increasing recognition that creative writing is therapeutic within health and social care settings and a need for ethically sound and well-versed practitioners, courses in CWTP have been growing over the last twenty or so years, alongside the rise of Lapidus (The UK Writing for Wellbeing Organisation) with an expanding literature and research base on the topic.

As Programme Leader for the MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes at Metanoia Institute, I will share the story so far in developing this M-level course, both at University of Bristol and with Middlesex University, holding a wide remit of creative writing literature, therapeutic literature, CWTP literature, groupwork, assessment and preparing students for social science research.

Many unique research projects have arisen from the course, important discoveries for CWTP practice. Learning has taken place around programming and management of an academic course teaching students how to facilitate and research a therapeutic creative art; this learning is potentially transferable to similar courses around the world.

This session offers a mixture of presentation, writing and discussion.

Other attended conferences:

Arts, Culture and Health International Conference


Shadow into Light - Bereavement

NAWE Conference


Writing in Time (with Julie Primon)


Developing an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes


Writing as as a Way of Becoming

Kingfisher Conference


Creative Writing at Penny Brohn Cancer Care

Lapidus Conference


Ride On: A Personal Journey


Writing in Addiction Recovery


Reflective Writing Group

Sheffield University. Writing for me; Writing for you


Writing the Self (on Franz Kafka and Virginia Woolf)