creative work, mental health, social work, Writing

Writing and Compassion

It was seven years after I graduated with my bachelor’s in social work that I decided to go back for my master’s with a focus in clinical social work. I know that I needed those years to develop my own centering routines, a depth of self-understanding, and the resiliency to work with trauma in a critical and compassionate way. In her book “Trauma Stewardship,” Laura van Dernoot Lipsky writes, “If we are to contribute to the changes so desperately needed in our agencies, communities, and societies, we must first and foremost develop the capacity to be present with all that arises, stay centered throughout, and be skilled at maintaining an integrated self.”

Writing is one of the tools I use to cultivate presence, centeredness, and maintenance of my “integrated self.” When I began my capstone research this summer I started by looking at compassion fatigue and writing. The research led me to a question that I’m hoping to answer this spring:

How does an expressive writing intervention impact levels of compassion fatigue among second year MSW students?

I designed a study where two groups of students completed a compassion fatigue scale, one group engaged in an expressive writing intervention, and both groups completed a post-intervention compassion fatigue scale. I interviewed willing students after they completed the writing intervention, seeking their feedback on what the writing was like for them, if and how they felt it benefited their work or their lives, and other ways they use writing. Part of what I love about both social work and research is that they require a commitment to critical reflection. I learn and evaluate as I do this work, finding new ways to create balance for myself and give support to my communities.