This pilot project was a collaboration between Verbal and the Royal Literary Fund. It involved running a series of facilitated expressive writing workshops for older adults with the aim of reducing loneliness, improving self-expression, and improving mental wellbeing.

Expressive writing is a form of therapeutic writing that helps someone to express their thoughts and feelings. Facilitated writing can take several forms such as taking place in a group or being guided by a facilitator.

A review published by the National Health Service (2016) identified a lack of research exploring the facilitated expressive writing model, leaving practitioners unsure as to which components of the model are most influential to wellbeing. This pilot aimed to contribute to existing research on the topic and provide the foundation for further research.

This programme involved four online sessions. We used end-of-programme feedback questions to explore which aspects of the facilitated expressive writing model were most influential to wellbeing, such as feeling supported by the facilitator and feeling close to the group.

While the programme began with 15 participants, three completed all paperwork necessary for data analysis. Our preliminary findings showed that mental wellbeing and feelings of loneliness significantly improved for all participants with completed paperwork.

Feedback from the programme was very positive, with participants noting the support provided by the facilitators and sharing the benefits the programme had on their mental health. When evaluating the facilitated expressive writing model, we found that feeling supported by facilitators had the strongest relationship with wellbeing and loneliness, but that each component of the model also had a relationship with at least one aspect of wellbeing or loneliness.

While more research is needed, these early findings support the positive impact of a facilitator for expressive writing and demonstrate the range of mental health benefits that the facilitated expressive writing model can have. There is significant scope for further research including investigating the mode of delivery (such as face-to-face sessions) and further exploring the co-facilitation model and the influence of a facilitator with lived experience of the subject material.

To read the full report, please click here.