Preliminary Outcomes for The Caregiver Project –
Illuminating and Easing the Human Dimensions of Caregiving Through Facilitated Writing Workshops
The Caregiver Project: Illuminating and Easing the Human Dimensions of Caregiving Through Facilitated Writing Workshops
How to Cite This
Simmerling, M., Wingert, S., Bayer, D., Cunningham, G., Diodati, F., Hanson, C., Reynolds, S., & Jones, M. (2023, October 27-28). The Caregiver Project: Illuminating and easing the human dimensions of caregiving through facilitated writing workshops [Poster presentation]. 35th Annual MacLean Center Conference, Chicago, IL, USA.
Approximately 25% of Canadians and Americans provide care to a family member or friend.[1, 2] There are over 1.5 million healthcare workers in Canada and 14.7 million in the US. Feeling tired, depressed, worried or anxious, overwhelmed, isolated, burnt out, and/or being sleep deprived are widely reported. [1-3,6,8] The Caregiver Project was led by a committee of nine Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA)-certified writing workshop facilitators. Between March and June 2023, 13 Zoom workshops (2 hours in duration) were held using the AWA method of writing to a prompt, then reading the just written piece and receiving positive feedback in a small group. Data come from voluntary pre-and post-workshop evaluations (N = 66 and 68), respectively. The results show self-care and stress release, an outlet for creativity and self-expression, sharing the experience of being a caregiver, and social support to be the most common reasons for attending. Participants describe caregiving as both challenging and meaningful with tiring or exhausting, stressful, and overwhelming being frequently used. Participants rated all aspects of the workshop highly and no negative outcomes were disclosed. Analysis of qualitative responses identified themes related to feelings of belonging and community, validation of experiences, the opportunity to process difficult emotions, and stress release. While preliminary, our findings contrast other studies of expressive writing with caregivers, which have found both positive and negative outcomes. [10-15] Differences between the method pioneered by Pennebaker and the AWA method offer potential explanations related to the latter’s emphasis on the writer choosing the direction of their writing, sharing writing in a supportive group, and trauma-informed facilitation. Future research directly comparing the methods is needed.
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