Mystery to mastery: An exploration of what happens in the black box of writing and healing

Reinekke Lengelle, Frans Meijers

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, a model of transformation-through-writing will be introduced that helps to explain how a transformative and dialogical-learning process occurs when narratives or poetry are used for healing. We focus in particular on how a “boundary experience” is processed—or how a painful “first story” can be rewritten to become a more life-giving “second story.” We propose that this occurs stepwise in four cognitive stages: sensing; sifting; focusing; and understanding. These stages are explained and underpinned by research on neurobiology, neuropsychology, and on identity learning. The case study used to illustrate this process, focuses on expressive and reflective writing in emotional recovery from domestic violence. To be effective, therapeutic writing requires a safe and enriching learning environment; we discuss how such an environment supports the dialogical self and what considerations a facilitator might take into account when working with a student or client.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-75
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Poetry Therapy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun. 2009


  • Dialogical self
  • Domestic violence
  • Expressive/reflective
  • Narratives
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Therapeutic
  • Transformative learning
  • Writing


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