Category Archives: Clinical Tools

Guidelines For Mindful Writing

Here are some helpful guidelines for a Mindful Writing practice that I have adapted from various writing methods and used successfully in my work with individuals and groups:

  • Find a quiet space to write where you will not be disturbed or distracted for at least thirty minutes.
  • Bring your favorite writing implements and your journal or some blank paper.
  • Music may enhance the meditative experience. The slower movements of Baroque music have been shown to have a calming effect on the body and shift people’s brain waves into a non-ordinary state of awareness as in other forms of meditation practice. If music distracts you try writing without it. If you are writing to music turn the music on.
  • Begin to write. Listen to your thoughts and put them on the paper.
  • Remember this is a free write, so there is no need to be concerned about writing complete sentences, or punctuation, spelling, or editing. Simply write whatever you hear in your mind.
  • As you write, you may notice certain themes arise, or memories, feelings, images, and pieces of your personal narrative. Whenever something arises that feels important to you stay with that for awhile and explore it as a child explores through play.
  • Pay attention to sensations in the body. These sensations may be clues that suggest images or feelings associated with the narrative themes. Explore these body expressions and the thoughts connected with them. Write down those thoughts.
  • Write for a pre-determined period of time, then stop, even if you are not finished. This creates a safe container within which we can hold a particular focus. If you are listening to a cassette tape. Write until the music stops. One side of a tape usually runs for twenty to twenty five minutes. If you are writing without music, set your wrist watch or a timer for the amount of time you would like to write. You may find that it is easier to begin with short intervals and extend the time as you develop your practice.
  • After you complete your “mindful write” read it back to yourself aloud. This is a way to witness yourself and hear your story again. Every time we tell or hear a story, we gather new meanings from it.
  • As you read your “mindful write” again, you may also want to use a highlighter and underline words, phrases, or images that have potency or resonate with feeling or elicit a strong visceral reaction. Use these images as prompts for your next “mindful write”.

© Patricia A. Burke 2004 All rights reserved.

Guidelines for Offering Reflections in a Group

Below are some guidelines for offering respectful reflections to other members of a group or community.

  • Listen carefully to the group member’s story, in particular how it relates to your own experience. Ask yourself: How does this person’s story resonate with my story?
  • Notice images, feelings, sensations, memories which are triggered for you by the group member’s story. Ask yourself: How do my experiences related back to this person’s story? Remember you are really reflecting on your own experience.
  • Be ready to acknowledge appreciation for what the other person is experiencing.
  • Be curious.
  • The emphasis is on presenting ideas instead of “correct” interpretations. Use phrases that leave openings for uncertainty, like “I was wondering . . .” or “I’m not sure about this but . . .” or “Does that fit for you . . .?”
  • Keep your comments brief.
  • Please refrain from blaming, pathologizing, fixing, interpreting or giving advice.
  • Please refrain from assuming you know the meaning of what you have heard, even when the storyteller uses commonly used words, images, and concepts. For example, resist the temptation to assume that your understanding of or experience of grief is the same as the storyteller’s.
  • Mirroring is one of the most powerful forms of reflection. . Listen deeply to the other person from a place of open attention, and non-judgmental awareness, then reflect back to the storyteller, a phrase or image that s/he spoke, that touched you in some way. There is no interpretation in mirroring.

Copyright 2005, Patricia A. Burke, MSW

Adapted from: Linking lives around shared themes: Narrative group therapy with gay men by Chris Behan. Used with the author’s permission.