Saturday, 15 August 2015

A Strategy to Explore Closure

I have been working through what to write for my next post, and as I move into my final weeks of psychiatric nursing school I thought closure was a fitting topic. How often do you find yourself thinking about a friendship that went bad? A family member you have remained angry with for many years? A relationship that ended? Or perhaps someone you have never even met?

This brings me to the topic of Psychodrama. The majority of general definitions around psychodrama speak to one on one or group therapy involving acting out situations you wish to explore further (Tomasulo). What is discussed less are the different underlying methods within psychodrama people can use, such as letter writing. Letter writing was an activity we were to complete at one stage of our psychiatric nursing program; this was not something we needed to share with our instructor, but instead was something we were to share our experience of. The purpose is to take one of these situations we have not stopped thinking about and write to the person involved.

An important recommendation made by Dayton about letter writing in her book on psychodrama is to try to just write and avoid stopping too much to think about it. This allows for your thoughts or feelings to flow out more naturally. Dayton also says to make sure you truly complete the activity and add the person’s name at the top and sign yours at the bottom.

Here are some examples of different letters one can use in completing this activity:

“A letter…
…of forgiveness to the self
…expressing anger towards someone
from someone expressing sentiments he [you] wishes that person had expressed
…telling someone about a hurt
…to someone expressing a desire for reconciliation
…to someone expressing understanding of what that person went through
…from someone expressing understanding of what the participant (you) went through
…to “the disease”
…to an aspect of self or the self at a particular time in life
…to a substance or behaviour to which a person in recovery is saying good-bye
…to a person who you feel you’ve lost but still have much to say to that has remained unspoken
…of forgiveness, asking forgiveness from someone you feel you have hurt, or a letter you wish you would receive from someone who has hurt you, asking you for your forgiveness”.

When assigned this activity I initially had no idea how to approach it. After some reflection, I chose to write a letter of forgiveness and was surprised by the result. Although I do believe you have to be at a place where you are at least ready to think about forgiveness (or whatever letter type you choose to write), I also found that this process helped me in working through the feelings I have had for many years. Furthermore, it allowed me to explore where the other person may have been coming from. An additional step you can take is to write a response to the letter from the other person’s side. In completing this, for me the response was a combination of reasons this person may have been the way they were, and also some of the things I wished had been said.

As you can see there are many approaches to this technique and there is no wrong way to complete it. This is not a letter intended to be shared with the person, but instead is for you. For myself, I found this activity prompted additional letter writing and even the reconciliation of a friendship I had been very hurt about losing.

It isn’t easy exploring feelings or trying to find ways of living in the now instead of dwelling on the past, but this is one method that I found to be very helpful in doing just that.

Jennifer Lynn

Dayton, T. (2005). The living stage: A step-by-step guide to psychodrama, sociometry and experiential group therapy. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications.
Psychology Today (Tomasulo, D.J.) -