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Established in 1999 at the University of Louisville, the Anne and William Axton Reading Series was established through the generosity of the late William Axton, former University of Louisville English professor, and his wife, the late Anne Axton. The Series brings highly distinguished writers from across the country to the University of Louisville for two-day visits to read from their work, and to share their knowledge and expertise with the University and Louisville community. On Belknap Campus, writers give a public reading and Q&A on the first day, and on the following morning, they conduct a master class where select student work is critiqued. Both events are free, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Previous seasons have included Terrance Hayes, Junot Diaz, Brian Teare, Robert Pinsky, Charles Wright, Nathaniel Mackey, Susan Minot, Mary Karr, Stephen Dobyns, Lynnell Edwards, Colson Whitehead, Robin Lippincott, Robert Hass, Silas House, Beverly Lowry, George Saunders, Louise Glück, Hannah Tinti, Clare Vaye Watkins, and Lynnell Major Edwards.

The podcasting feed for the Creative Writing Department at the University of Louisville.

UofLCreativeWriting UofLCreativeWriting

  • DEC 6, 2019

Casey Plett at the University of Louisville w/ Introduction by Adam Yeich

Casey Plett at the University of Louisville w/ Introduction by Adam Yeich by UofLCreativeWriting

  • NOV 19, 2019

Garth Greenwell at 2019 Writers' Block Festival w/ Introduction by Ian Stansel

Garth Greenwell at 2019 Writers' Block Festival w/ Introduction by Ian Stansel by UofLCreativeWriting

  • NOV 4, 2019

Mary Ann Samyn at the University of Louisville w/ Introduction by Kristi Maxwell

Mary Ann Samyn at the University of Louisville w/ Introduction by Kristi Maxwell by UofLCreativeWriting

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University of Louisville Writing Center

Conceptualizing trauma-informed consulting in the university writing center.

Lauren T. Cox, Writing Consultant

In our Writing Center Studies course each Fall, our consultants bring their interests and expertise to our center, and this is a great way for us to keep in touch with how to best work with UofL writers. In this week’s post, Lauren Cox provides us with invaluable information about how to best support writers through trauma-informed consulting.

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In the fall of 2023, my MA cohort and I became new University Writing Center (UWC) consultants here at the University of Louisville. Through this transition, the back office of the writing center became a hub for our homework questions, lunch breaks, and many conversations about life and consulting. As the year progresses, we increasingly discuss the triumphs and difficulties we encounter while collaborating with different writers. These questions only intensify after working with a writer sharing a traumatic story or disclosing sensitive information. My fellow consultants and I were not initially aware of what an effective trauma writing session looks like, both in terms of discussing trauma with a writer and processing our emotional labor before the next writer arrives. As trauma studies in higher education continues to gain prominence, I found myself wanting more information regarding how to best work with trauma-informed writers.

As I began preliminary research, I found that trauma studies is prevalent across numerous disciplinary perspectives; thus, in addition to considering writing center studies scholarship, I also found it helpful to explore what related disciplines like psychology and composition, and other contexts such as community writing centers have to say about supporting writers as they pen traumatic experiences. This blog post synthesizes these experts’ findings in an effort to determine how interdisciplinary research might inform consultants’ approach to trauma writing in the UWC space.


Courtney Patrick-Weber and Britt Munro’s research upholds the value of assigning personal narratives and employing trauma-informed pedagogy in the composition classroom; their interests indicate that consultants should expect trauma narratives in the writing center. While Patrick-Weber specifically focuses on students engaging in trauma writing, Munro acknowledges that classroom behaviors like disassociating, avoiding deadlines, and difficulty focusing may indicate that trauma is impacting a student writer, even if their essay topic is unrelated (132). Therefore, consultants should consider trauma as a potential influence in all their sessions, regardless of the assignment or project. Patrick-Weber and Munro’s additional observations may point to the beginnings of a trauma-informed consulting framework. They state that clarifying a writer’s thought process and purposes, developing personal connections with writers, empowering writers to make their own choices, providing optimistic and growth-centered feedback, and sharing power with writers when possible are all helpful pedagogical practices that consultants could employ with writers (Patrick-Weber 143, Munro 135).


Psychologist Jason Thompson and English scholar Jeffrey Berman provide helpful, though occasionally differing, perspectives on writing’s role in trauma studies from a psychoanalytical perspective. Both Thompson and Berman agree that a writer’s motivation and trauma writing’s effect on a writer differ on a case-by-case basis or, as Thompson claims, writing can either “heal a wound or keep it open” (275). Berman’s opinion of trauma writing’s impact on writers, based on his experiences as an English professor, is more optimistic; he asserts that writing about trauma in the composition classroom often leads to problem solving and empathetic relationships within a classroom community(256).

Despite their different conclusions on trauma writing’s impact, both experts agree that psychology and English approach trauma with different goals and methodology (psychological change versus artistic production.) As a consultant, I think it is important to recognize the different roles that writing and psychology play in trauma studies, but also to remember that writers are choosing to bring their stories to the writing center, not a counseling center. In most cases, the writer is looking for writing feedback and expertise from consultants, much like any other session (Berman 256). Consultants can often focus on composition concerns in a trauma writing session unless a writer desires psychological care that the UWC cannot provide. In this case, consultants and other UWC staff members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with their university’s counseling center and additional resources.


Community writing center scholarship also provides useful insights for a UWC consultant’s perspective and daily work. Power dynamics between a writer and a consultant are particularly relevant when it comes to discussing trauma. Rossina Zamora Liu, a community writing center director that serves those experiencing housing insecurity, agrees with Berman and Thompson by recommending that the central authority in a session is not the consultant or director, but the writer’s purposes for sharing their story. DeCedrick Walker and Melissa Pavlik add that a consultant’s choice to hospitably welcome and collaborate with a writer can model healthy ways of thinking about trauma for the writer. This exchange recognizes and honors the emotional labor the writer exerted in recounting and sharing a trauma narrative.

Like our context in the UWC, Liu never knows which community writers will attend a workshop; she emphasizes the importance of writing center staff repositioning themselves at the onset of each session so that they can “foster trust and collective sharing” with their writer (348). Other practical advice for writing consultants, according to Liu, includes using second-person possessive pronouns, prefacing feedback with ‘as one reader of your draft,’ and validating a writer’s authorship. These strategies can ultimately help consultants act as worthy witnesses of writers’ traumatic stories.

While interdisciplinary scholarship on trauma provides useful insights and frameworks for consultants, I wonder if additional research on trauma-informed consulting in the UWC could [LT1]  continue to benefit the field. Nevertheless, interdisciplinary trauma literature offers some helpful strategies for UWC consultants. Pedagogical maneuvers like promoting equal power dynamics, recommending personal connections with writers, and responding to trauma writing with feedback focused on the writer’s thought process may prove helpful for consultants as they navigate trauma-informed consulting in the UWC. 

Works Cited

Berman, Jeffrey. “The Talking Cure and the Writing Cure.”  Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology , vol. 17 no. 3, 2010, p. 255-257.  Project MUSE   muse.jhu.edu/article/405320 .

Liu, Rossina Zamora. “Humanizing the Practice of Witnessing Trauma Narratives.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy , vol. 63, no. 3, 2019, pp. 347–50. JSTOR , https://www.jstor.org/stable/48556220 . Accessed 6 Oct. 2023.

Munro, Britt. “Human  and  Professor: Using Trauma-Informed Pedagogy to Reimagine Teaching in the Wake of COVID-19.”  CEA Critic , vol. 84 no. 2, 2022, p. 130-146.  Project MUSE ,  https://doi.org/10.1353/cea.2022.0017 .

Patrick-Weber, Courtney. “Creating a ‘Language’ of Trauma: Exploring Trauma Theories and Trauma Narratives in Multimodal Writing.” Pedagogical Perspectives on Cognition and Writing , edited by Patricia Portanova, Michael Rifenburg, and Duane Roen, 2021, pp. 134-148.

Pavlik, Melissa and DeCedrick Walker. “Conversation Shaper: Writing, Incarceration, and Healing in the Writing Center.” The Peer Review , vol. 5 no. 2, 2021, https://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/issue-5-2/ . Accessed 22 Oct. 2023.

Thompson, Jason. “Writing About Trauma: Catharsis or Rumination?”  Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology , vol. 17 no. 3, 2010, p. 275-277.  Project MUSE   muse.jhu.edu/article/405326

Creating Art: A Painter’s Journey Into the World of Writing

Mary Sherafati, Writing Consultant

Our staff often engage in other creative processes as part of their learning and writing. In this week’s blog post, Mary Sherafati discusses how she finds practicing her painting skills similar to the process of becoming a stronger writer. Check out her journey and her paintings below!

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Before beginning my academic journey into the world of writing, I tried to improve my painting as I have always dreamed of being a good painter. I therefore took my first painting classes in 2015. First, I was in a hurry to make a name for myself as a good painter; however, gradually I reckoned that in order to become a good painter not only do I need to be more and more patient but also I need time. I need time to learn, to practice, and to make mistakes several times. I also learned that to be a good painter, I should not be afraid of receiving feedback, either positive or negative.

One of the most important processes in creating a picture is brainstorming. At first, I could not do it alone. For example, I looked at a flower, and wanted to draw it, but I did not know how to start, I felt stressed out and started to blame myself thinking that I’m the least talented person in painting. Since I loved painting and felt enthusiastic to progress, I talked to my painting teacher. She helped me, then, with brainstorming. For example, she taught me a technique through which I first see the pictures in geometric shapes including circles, squares, triangles as well as rectangles. Through this technique, my fear was removed gradually. She continued teaching this way to assist me in making an outline before the main step of painting. She wanted me to draw all the geometric shapes that I saw in the picture on my paper without being worried about the result. It was awesome, as through this way of outlining, I learned how to paint.

I learned that brainstorming and outlining are so important. For example, if I wanted to paint a bird, I draw its head as a circle, its body as a triangle, and its tail as a rectangle. Then, I learned that to make a good picture, I need to receive feedback and I need to draw the same picture several times to make one of the best pictures. I learned that I need to be patient and trust time to improve my painting by experiencing it. I also learned that I should know the genres as well as the techniques for painting and follow specific strategies. For example, for painting with collage technique, you have the combination of reality with painting, or combine a real picture with your painting. In the following picture, the flowers are real, the bird is the amalgamation of my painting and a real picture, and the context and the small pictures on the corners are my own painting:

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 For cubism and imperialism, on the other hand, I learned that the combination of colors make the picture. It needs lots of practice to recognize how to create art just by mixing the colors. Sometimes, when you look at the picture close by, you might not understand the power of the colors and the painting might look strange, but when you step back, and look at the picture from a little bit far distance, you feel how amazing the picture is. Like the following picture:

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When I started my academic journey in writing, my experience of painting helped me a lot. To me, writing and painting follow the same processes. For example, I learned that like painting, I need to brainstorm and create a picture of what I am going to write about. I, moreover, was in the habit of making an outline for my writing. At first, I could not make my outline alone, so I asked for help from my writing teacher. I learned that for making my outline, I should know the genre as well as the context of my writing, and follow a specific technique based on that. These were all tasks I practiced before through my painting classes.

For example, I learned that for some tests like IELTS, I need to write my writing based on the types of questions, and depending upon the types of questions, my writing style should be different, my body paragraphs should be different, and more. For direct questions in IELTS writing tests, I need four paragraphs, whereas for argumentative questions for the IELTS test, I need to have five paragraphs. Gradually, I also learned how to write for class assignments, how to write an article, a book review, or a conference paper. Additionally, what has made my writing and painting experience similar was the process of receiving feedback from more experienced writers and painters, and having several drafts. I learned that to be a good writer, I need to revise my paper several times based on the feedback that I receive. I learned that feedbacks might be positive or negative, but both have been constructive for me so far.

Parallels between painting and writing :

In order to show you how good writing as well as a good painting will be created by being patient and  by practicing a lot, I will give you some examples through which I discuss and analyze one of my paintings as well as my writings from my first draft to the final one. During my drafts, I received feedback from my instructors and peer colleagues as well as fellow students.

Here is my first draft of painting in which I tried to paint some flowers in a vase:

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This draft made my painting teacher frustrated, and she wanted me to paint again. At first, I got frustrated and stopped painting for three weeks; however, I love painting, so I tried to listen to my teacher and go for my second draft:

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In my second draft, the vase looks good, but the flowers were not still acceptable. This time, both my teacher and I wanted to see what my third draft would be like:

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In my third draft, the flowers were seemed better, but the vase was not my favorite. I went for two more drafts as well . Although my teacher could see my progress, she encouraged me to practice more and more and trust time. I started painting the vase and flowers in January, and here is the result of my practice, and being patient and trusting time in March:

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As you see, the final version looks much better.

The same also occurred for my writing assignment. I had to write a conference paper. It was about a proper type of feedback in writing in a translingual context. This process of drafting, getting feedback, and revising happened three times before I finally landed on an innovative approach, and I reckoned that I have been the first person to discuss the approach I wrote about in my paper.

As a result, these types of practicing, and having several drafts for my writing and revising my papers based on the feedback I received and my further studying not only helped me achieve an A in my course subject but also made me creative and helped me create something totally new and beneficial. The same is also true for my painting. In the following painting, my teacher only asked me to draw the banana, but I like birds, so I tried to be creative and paint it on top of the banana. I also love the flowers, so I tried to have them all in one picture:

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Isn’t my painting interesting?


In my opinion, and based on my experience as a writer and a painter, in order to be great artists and writers, we need to practice a lot. We should learn that we need to trust the process. We should start with brainstorming, continue with outlining, and then try to cover some drafts. Also, in order to become a good writer, we need to be self-confident and trust time, as my experience shows that if we gradually practice and not give up, we will improve. During our journey, we should not feel ourselves alone and take the role of receiving feedback a lot more seriously. In my opinion, great artists and writers are the ones that share their work with others and ask for feedback. This is why we have art exhibits.  This is why we have the Writing Center!

Come see us and share your writing as well as writing concerns with us! I’m sure you will enjoy your meeting with us and see your improvement in writing via the feedback you receive from us.

Enjoy some of my other paintings please:

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Getting Comfortable with Directive Practices in the Writing Center

Caden Holbrook, Writing Consultant

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One of the running conversations we’ve had all year is where to draw the line when being directive with a writer. In this week’s blog post, Caden Holbrook discusses some of this conversation and explains one of the approaches our consultants use that they have started to call “directive non-directiveness.” Check it out!

I have found working at the University of Louisville Writing Center to be fulfilling, exciting, and full of wonderful experiences. However, when I was first starting out, I found that I was often feeling guilty after some of my sessions, like I had let my writers down. I learned that many consultants, especially in their first semester, can feel guilty about the way that they’re handling sessions. It can be very easy to feel that we’re letting our writers down during a session, particularly when we might be feeling that our practices aren’t always affording enough flexibility to help a writer meet their needs or accomplish their goals.

These feelings of guilt can come from a lot of different places, but I felt them the strongest when I felt that non-directive approaches were letting our writers down. I can recall working with an EAL writer and trying to focus on global concerns and non-directive, open-ended questions. But that approach ultimately confused the writer and didn’t help bring her any closer to feeling more confident and comfortable with composition.

As time went on, and I grew more comfortable in the writing center, I began to grow more comfortable with occasionally employing directive practices in sessions, particularly for writers who speak English as an additional language, or who are less experienced with college-level composition. Allie Degner, my co-consultant, authored an excellent blog post on working with EAL students where she touched on similar themes, especially the occasional need for directive practices.

My goal with this blog post is not to say that we should do away with non-directive or global, higher-order tutoring; instead, I simply want to suggest that directive approaches are a part of our toolbelt that we should feel okay employing, when it best suits the writer and the session.

Am I Letting My Writers Down?

When we feel like non-directive approaches aren’t working, it can be easy to feel like we’re failing our writers. “ Got Guilt? Consultant Guilt in the Writing Center ,” a survey on the subject by Jennifer Nicklay, found that writers are most likely to feel guilty in a session after employing directive practices. But should we?

Nicklay certainly doesn’t think so. At the end of her survey, she reminds consultants and administrators that conversations about our collaborative practices are important, and that we should work to re-evaluate how we teach, talk about, and frame directive practices.

It’s also important to note that recent studies, like “Directiveness in the center: L1, L2, and generation 1.5 expectations and experiences,” by Eckstein,  have shown writers often expect directive sessions, especially when said writers are EAL. Other studies suggest that writers less experienced in composition can benefit greatly from directive sessions and practices, especially when we use those practices to model how we compose at the graduate level.

We all want to help our writers reach their goals. Sometimes achieving those goals can require stepping outside of what’s comfortable or typical practice. What’s important is that we engage with deliberate action and careful forethought, always making sure to respect the writer and their boundaries.

What Do Directive Practices Look Like?

 Directive practices come in a variety of forms. A favorite approach by some of my coworkers is “directive non-directiveness.” This happens when we directly instruct or ask students to make certain decisions. For example, at the start of a session, we might ask a student if they’d prefer to read their paper silently, to read it aloud, or to have the consultant read it aloud. Sometimes, a writer might defer, saying that they don’t care or want the consultant to choose. In that instance, a consultant might simply choose for the student, or instruct them that they have to pick. By being directive in our instruction, we’ve taken steps to make sure that the session can continue smoothly and that we can begin to tackle the piece the writer has brought in.

At our writing center, we’ve settled on this method of directive non-directiveness, and to great success. By embracing this approach, we’ve managed to offer our writers structured, supportive sessions, that center their wishes, remain productive, and help us feel more confident in our roles as consultants.

 There are other conceptions, too. In her article “The Balance Beam: Directive and Non-Directive Tutoring Approaches,” Savannah Price encourages us to trust our advice as experts. While students should always remain in control of their papers and their writing, we can still offer direct, specific forms of feedback and constructive comments. By leaning on our expertise and writing experience, we can offer invaluable insights for students seeking help at the writing center.

 In a recent session, I recall working with a writer who was feeling very overwhelmed by a literary analysis assignment. She had never written a thesis statement before, and didn’t know where to start. I decided to model what thesis statements often look like: I wrote out one abstract example, separate from the topic, and then wrote one based on her topic, and how she described her position and analysis. From there, we were able to rework the basic statement; the student was able to write one on her own, in her own words, and feel confident doing so, but she never could have if I hadn’t first been directive in describing what thesis statements ought to look like. If I had relied solely on leading questions or non-directive guidance, the student likely would have left the session frustrated and feeling like she hadn’t made any significant progress on her paper. The directive lesson didn’t just help with her specific assignment, either, but also gave her a good foundation for theses she’ll need to write in the future.

In the past, that session would have made me feel guilty. Even though the writer expressed increased confidence in her abilities and satisfaction with the session, I would have felt like I let her down by being directive. But the reality couldn’t be any more different. By treating directiveness as any other tool in a session, we can better help our writers. When we act in accordance with our ethos, our intuition, and our writer’s established goals, we can engage in directive practice while still respecting writers’ integrity. We aren’t helping our writers by feeling guilty. Rather than doubting our intuition, it’s worth recognizing the tightrope we walk, and that no one approach works for every writer

International Mother Language Day 2024

Abigail Anderson, Writing Consultant

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Last Wednesday, February 21st, the University Writing Center hosted our annual celebration of International Mother Language Day. Recognized by the United Nations, International Mother Language Day honors linguistic and cultural diversity around the world and highlights the importance of multilingual education. According to UNESCO , “globally 40 per cent of the population does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand,” so the topic of language education becomes increasingly relevant to our modern world. As a result, the goal of our event was to celebrate the myriad languages spoken on campus and in our wider Louisville community, and to provide resources, activities, and opportunities to learn about one of the most vital cultural tools at our disposal: language.

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In planning this event, one of our administrators, Kylee, and I were very lucky to work with a number of different organizations, programs, and community members. Our collaborators included Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Professor Ming Wu from the department of Classical and Modern Languages, Tzuhan Tung, Yuan Zhao, Professor Gerard Willinger from the Physics department, Professor Csaba Biro from the Mathematics department, and Omar Sadi Sarkar and the members of the Bangladeshi Student Association. We were so thankful to have these partners in this event, as well as help from my fellow consultants Jameson Reid, Jennings Collins, Jolie Finley, and Caden Holbrook.

Held in the Learning Commons of the Ekstrom Library, this year’s International Mother Language Day celebration was a great success. Though the heightened visibility of being in a public space undeniably helped to attract passers-by to our tables, I credit so much of the event’s success to the dedication of the faculty, students, and organizations who collaborated with us. Because of the amazing materials, activities, and resources they brought to the table, as well as their own knowledge and enthusiasm, there was an infectious, inquisitive energy to the space that drew so many students and faculty in.

In addition to providing language resources, curious event-goers also had the opportunity to learn about the history of International Mother Language Day. As the Bangladeshi Student Association shared at their table, International Mother Language Day began as Language Martyrs Day in Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. This holiday commemorates protestors who were killed at the University of Dhaka on February 21, 1952 during ongoing political rallies against the Pakistani government’s decision to remove Bangla, one of the most common languages spoken in the region, as one of Pakistan’s national languages. First recognized by the UN in 1999 and celebrated as an international holiday since 2000, the origins of International Mother Language Day undoubtedly illustrate the importance of the right to speak one’s mother language and have that language be respected and valued in one’s community.

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Indeed, throughout all of the other tables in this event, attendees could engage in authentic experiences of multilingual education or outreach, highlighting a sampling of our diverse community on campus and in the city of Louisville more broadly. Attendees had the opportunity to write letters or make cards for incoming refugees with Kentucky Refugee Ministries, and learn more about the work they do to help refugees in Louisville. They could also engage in activities curated by UofL faculty: learning to write Chinese characters, and sampling a selection of Hungarian books, art, and music. In the process of planning and hosting this event, it was heart-warming for me to see the excitement present in both our multilingual presenters and our event-goers, students, faculty, and community members alike, who showed an eagerness to learn, try new things, and engage authentically with others around them.

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I personally worked at the table where attendees would ideally start their International Mother Language Day journey. As a starting place, I fielded the questions of, “What is all this?” or “What are you all doing?” or “Is this candy free to take?” With every inquisitive look from someone just passing through, I hoped they would stick around to see more of what we had to offer, and what our hosts had taken such care to prepare.

At my table also sat a bulletin board with a map of the world on it, onto which people could place a pin and note to indicate somewhere meaningful to them. Some students marked places they had traveled or studied abroad, while others marked their home countries. On the pieces of paper, many attendees also wrote small greetings or messages in their mother languages, which created beautiful moments of connection in the moments where people saw themselves or their language already represented on the map. The tactile and visual nature of this activity was meaningful for me as a host because it was a physical manifestation of how global UofL’s campus community truly is.

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Understanding the importance of International Mother Language Day and seeing the impacts of multilingual education in action underscore the importance of prioritizing linguistic diversity in academic settings. Certainly, language is one of the most important tools we possess, and not simply in terms of communication; I sincerely hope that, for our attendees, this event invited them to think about language as a tool for conveying culture, traditions, and history in uniquely valuable ways. For me, it also emphasized the importance of valuing multilingualism in specifically our writing center practices. At the start of our event, I struck up a conversation with some students passing by. After I had described some of our offerings, one of the students told me, “I can’t stay because I have to run to class, but I really hope you all do this next year!” Though we may only host this event once a year, it is my hope that we can make the commitment to incorporating more multilingual elements into our pedagogies, to show that this appreciation for other languages and cultures is not simply a once-a-year occurrence.

University and High School Writing Centers

Shelby Cundiff, Writing Consultant

The University of Louisville has always been closely tied with its larger metro area. One of the immediate ways that this happens is through the many, many students who come to us from one Jefferson County’s twenty-four high schools. As we see an uptick in partnerships between university writing centers and high schools across the country, this week’s blog post is written by Shelby Cundiff as she considers what it might look like for the University Writing Center to partner with Jefferson County Public Schools to  provide equitable and effective writing center services throughout the county.

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A lot of writing center consultants use their interests to go on and pursue many different careers. Since August of 2023, I have been grappling with what I want to do for the rest of my life. Upon realizing that I wanted to go into higher education, specifically as a high school principal, I began to look into high school writing centers. Last semester, I used my final project as the base of my research — I came up with different scenarios, conducted an interview, and read many articles. I read Ellen Brinkley’s “Secondary Writing Centers: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way” (1988) and Amy Levin’s “Goals and Philosophies of High School Writing Centers” (1989) during my research, which both focused on what a high school writing center needs to be successful, and how they see a center needed to be ran. I also read through a blog post from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “A New Collaboration: Welcoming a High School Writing Center to UW-Madison,” which highlights how they run their high school writing center. By collaborating with the high school administrators and teachers, the consultants and administrators are able to show how to best run a writing center in a high school setting, providing the resources necessary, both in person and on their online center.

Upon completing my final project, I decided to write this blog post based on different scenarios I have thought about in regards to creating a successful high school writing center, focusing specifically on my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in regards to the University of Louisville, and our largest public school system, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). Because UofL is a community engaged university and forty percent of our students come from JCPS, we have an obligation to provide the surrounding high schoolers with the resources necessary to be successful. My conclusions, in regards to why a high school writing center is necessary and beneficial, stem from the fact that, well, high schoolers need the extra support. With college applications requiring resumes and personal statements, it feels important to give high schoolers the opportunity to talk with those who have been in their shoes somewhat recently, and receive advice on the best formatting for a resume, or the best way to present themselves to colleges. Along with preparing high schoolers for college level writing, I believe a high school writing center opens up the door for the next year of college students to be more comfortable talking to older students, be vulnerable with their work, and be willing to take risks through their writing. Here are my early thoughts:

In a perfect world,the University of Louisville allows for our writing center to be opened up to all high school students within JCPS, regardless of high school. With this scenario, high schoolers are provided with easier access to the UofL writing center, regardless of which high school they attend. While right now, only the high schools with dual credit classes can make use of our writing center, I believe that we could open our center up to all high schools, as every high school in JCPS has, at minimum, one student who would make use of, and benefit from our resources. Moreover, high schoolers would be receiving advice from those who are trained in writing center practices, where we can help every student, regardless of writing experience or writing related questions. While this idea seems like a good one, it is probable that we run into problems with regards to funding, staffing, and hours. Our dream, as a writing center, would be to end up with the resources to keep us open long enough during the day or to employ enough people for the forty-two JCPS high schools. In this scenario, the first step would be to start researching grants and producing a statement of need.

Another idea, as the University of Louisville writing center, we create a model for a JCPS high school writing center that can be used, followed, and trusted for high school principals. This idea leaves the UofL writing center to create a simple, yet well-rounded model of how to run a writing center. These could be online modules that can be completed at one’s convenience, or we could do on site workshops. We would need to gather articles and research on current high school centers showcasing the positives of this resource, along with trainings on how to help students based on their needs, assignments, and writing experience. I also think this provides high schools with flexibility, as they will be able to create their own schedule, staff whoever is willing, and use whatever space they have in their own buildings.

The scenario that seems to be the most plausible is the University of Louisville creates and runs an all-online writing center for JCPS high school students where all they need is a login to access this resource. The UofL writing center already has an online writing center, and all JCPS students are given a Chromebook at the beginning of the school year, and are allowed to take their computer home with them for school use. All that UofL would need to do is broadcast the writing center as a resource, and provide each student with a UofL login. If we made the writing center available by our Live Chat or Written Feedback option for all JCPS high school students, I think this would give them a greater opportunity to use the writing center. I also think this could be something that students could use during school hours in a free period or study hall, ensuring that they have WiFi and a space to video chat. Of course, it is plausible that we run into issues like staffing here too, as there probably isn’t enough staff right now to help everyone on Louisville’s campus along with forty-two high schools worth of students.

So, my fellow writing center scholars, as someone who wants to be a high school principal and run a successful high school writing center one day, I leave you with some questions. If you have experience with a high school writing center, what has worked for you, or vice versa? If not, do you foresee any of these scenarios working for you?

How Time Affects a Writing Center Session

Jennings Collins, Writing Consultant

In our Writing Center, appointments last up to 50 minutes. This week’s blog post discusses the reasons for this time limit and how time impacts writing sessions!

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Often during a writing center session, a writer will ask me how much time we have left. Sometimes this happens twenty minutes into a session, sometimes it happens forty-eight minutes into a session. While we try to do our due diligence in our scheduling process to give writers as much information as possible on how a session will go, some of that preparation before a session begins can get lost as a writer and their tutor get deeper into their conversation. Rarely, though, have I had someone ask me why our sessions are fifty minutes long.

Now, not every writing center session here takes up the full fifty minute time slot set aside for it, but many do. Often a fifty minute session comprises of introductions, questioning, reading, editing, and a final conversation about plans for continuing writing after the session is complete. Often the reading and editing fluctuates the most depending on the length of the individual piece, but you can just as easily get a fifty minute session out of a resume or cover letter as you can from a dissertation chapter or dense scientific report. It just depends on what the writer wants to focus on. But that still doesn’t answer our question, why fifty minutes? Why not thirty, forty or sixty?

Looking at it through simple logistics some things become clear. We’re a university-affiliated center. Most classes start or end at or near the top of an hour, so it’s easiest for people to be able to set aside a specific hour of the day for a session. That same logic can be applied to our own daily labor, as it becomes easier to keep track of a day’s work by looking at it all an hour at a time. And generally, we think it’s better to have longer sessions available to be more flexible in our methods and practices, more time for a session keeps writers and tutors from feeling rushed while working together. But is fifty minutes an ideal amount of time for a writing center session?

There’s not a lot of writing about the ideal length for a writing center session (I’m working on a larger piece looking to explore that idea myself), but it is one of the few things about the profession that I would consider rigid. As repetitive as some days can be, the flexible nature of the writing center session can often provide surprising conversations with student writers. The context of the location and student needs guided us toward fifty minutes as an ideal time for student writers to work with.

Our community writing centers see a bit of a different approach to time. This semester I started work at one of our community outreach locations: the Western Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. While there I help students anywhere from first to twelfth grade with their writing, but we are only there for three hours a week. So, how do we make the best use of time we would normally set aside for three typical writing center sessions when any number of students could need help during that time frame? After some discussion among the team, we decided that it would be best to not limit any individual writers’ time with us. We would act more like teachers managing a classroom, something I already have experience doing, either floating throughout the space or creating a section of it where students could ask us questions about anything at any time, whether something needs a simple fix or a complex analysis.

Taking this more freeform approach to session length has its benefits and drawbacks. For one, the fifty minute limit on a writing center session is often made more efficient by the steps we take before a session begins. Writers fill out a form on WConline that gives us a lot of information about what they’re looking for from their session, which is helpful with the fixed amount of time we are given. We won’t have this kind of briefing with younger students at the library, a population whose needs can fluctuate much more often than a writer we might see more than once with the same project. So we need to spend more time building trust with students the same way you would build rapport in a classroom. Learning names, articulating who we are and what we do, and encouraging students to open up to us about their work and their concerns are all foundational parts of the conversation that take up the limited time we have in the library next week. Ironically, analyzing the nuances of this new setting has reinforced the notion for me that we’re doing the right thing with the fifty minute session for our university center.

The conclusion I’m currently arriving at is that we make the time work for us, not the other way around. The time we set aside for a session is something that needs to be decided on with all other environmental factors in mind. As writing centers design pedagogical approaches for university and/or community settings, it’s the job of the administration and the team to figure out what kind of time frame works best for the ideal session.

ESL Instruction in the University of Louisville Writing Center

Allie Degner, Writing Consultant

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On a campus that is becoming increasingly more diverse every year, the University Writing Center is a crucial resource for helping students that come from backgrounds where English is not the first language they have learned. It can be difficult for these students to adjust to a classroom setting, and they may find themselves being unable to keep up because the time it takes these students to complete assignments is significantly longer than Native English Speakers (NES) who fully understand the language. While the University of Louisville is working on making more resources available to help English as a Second Language (ESL) students in their language acquisition process, the University Writing Center is in an ongoing process of working through how to best support these writers. This blog presents some of the early findings of this process in informing consultants about some of the best practices that can aid in sessions with ESL students.

How do I start a session with an ESL writer?

Understanding expectations can always be a little difficult for first-time visitors to the writing center, but this can particularly be the case with ESL writers. In order to avoid any miscommunications at the beginning of the session, it is best to start where the student has an opportunity to explain a little bit about their situation and the aspects of writing they are struggling with. The consultant can also take the time to explain that sessions can run the whole 50 minutes if need be, but there is also no pressure to stay the whole time. Along with this, the consultant should make it clear that the University Writing Center operates differently than a classroom and that a consultant operates differently than a professor does.

Similarly, it might be helpful for the consultant to get some basic information from the writer regarding their history with the language, so that the consultant can be informed on how much experience the writer has. Gleaning this background information does not have to be incredibly extensive but, in the case of the consultant and writer establishing that there will be future repeat visits, it would be best to obtain as much background experience as possible. Dudley W. Reynolds in One on One with Second Language Writers (21) provides questions that could be useful for consultants: How much reading have you done in English? What is the longest text you have ever read in English? Did you have a chance to speak English outside of the classroom? Where and how often?Asking questions like these will inform the consultant on best possible practices to use with ESL students based on their prior experiences with the language.

What if a student really needs proofreading and grammar strategies?

At our center, many of our consultants feel a tension between the advice to focus on “global” concerns and to avoid too much attention to sentence-level grammar instruction. However, there are occasions where ESL students will come to the writing center requesting assistance for grammar and proofreading, as it is sometimes a common belief by these students that by fixing these lower level concerns, they are fixing global concerns as well. Though this is not the case, we are learning to be more flexible about our general approach that involves beginning with sentence-level concerns and then working to move these to a more general recognition of meaning. Because the English language is full of complexities that ESL students may not have been fully taught in their home countries, the consultant should allow for these lower-level issues to be fixed if it is the student’s wish.

In my own experience, an ESL writer came in for a session and she solely wanted to focus on local concerns. As soon as I tried to move to global concerns, she was immediately lost, and I could tell she was beginning to get more confused the more I talked. Therefore, in order to help keep the session productive as opposed to it being frustrating for her, I realized that I needed to just focus on the local concerns because those were the ideas that she could grasp the easiest.

We are learning, as consultants, to realize that this is okay, and that meeting the writer where they are is the most important part of any consultation.

Should I attempt to engage in a nondirective approach with ESL writers?

Most typically seen in Writing Center ethos is the practice of using nondirective consulting, which prefers that the consultant take a more hands-off approach to a session and instead prompts writers to think on their own about their writing. However, according to Young-Kyung Min in “When ‘Editing’ Becomes ‘Educating’ in ESL Tutoring Sessions” (24), this is not the best strategy for working with ESL writers, as they require a more hands-on approach that can help their language acquisition and composition processes. The question then arises as to just how directive a consultant should be in a session, if being directive in the first place is the best course of action.

Consultants cannot make the assumption that writing practices here in the States are common to those in other countries that ESL writers may have come from, where they may be more used to having instructors be explicit in their guidance. When a consultant tries to take a nondirective approach to a session with an ESL writer, it could possibly cause frustration for the writer because it may be unfamiliar for them to engage in a writing practice where they are not directly told how what and how to do something. Taking this directive approach will hopefully allow for writers to acquire knowledge of the language in a way that is beneficial and educational. If the writer is feeling more confident towards the end of a session about the topics covered, the consultant could then try a nondirective approach, but it should not be the main practice of working with ESL writers.

The amount of scholarship on ESL instruction, especially ESL instruction in the Writing Center, can be overwhelming to search through for answers to specific questions that consultants may have, especially those that are serving in a writing center for the first time. The goal of this blog was to provide answers to these common questions consultants might ask and provide them with resources and methods for helping their ESL writer in the best possible way. Though some of these methods and resources might not work for every ESL writer, it can inform the practices that consultants use when working in a writing center that caters to an incredibly rich and diverse population of students. Through these practices and resources, the consultant can be equipped with certain tools that will allow these ESL writers to embrace their past linguistic experiences with those that will set them up for success in their writing, in the classroom, and in their future.

Mapping Emotional Labor in Our Writing Center

Here in the Writing Center, we try to combine our work supporting UofL’s students and faculty with our work as an active research site that tries to learn more about cultures of writing—including writing centers as workplaces. This week’s blog post comes from one of our consultants, Jolie Finley, who is beginning a project to explore emotional labor in our writing center .

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The field of Writing Center Studies has recently introduced emotional labor as a topic of conversation in its scholarship. I was introduced to emotional labor, a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild to define the act of workers masking their emotions to present an externally acceptable presentation, in my Writing Center Studies class. I immediately recognized emotional labor happening in our Center, as conversations of it (though not naming it as such) were frequent in our backroom. Emotional labor is a phenomenon that goes unnamed almost as often as it occurs in Writing Centers, and this implicitness seems to be the scholarship’s main concern.

My current project is to create a heuristic from this inventory based on Suhr-Sytsma and Brown in “Theory In/To Practice: Addressing the Everyday Language of Oppression in the Writing Center.” Through my research, I’ve determined that one of the better ways to account for emotional labor is to utilize a model that can be easily replicated across Centers: creating an inventory. Because emotional labor is a very personal phenomenon, attempting to study it from an outside perspective may prove problematic and overly complicated. Suhr-Sytsma and Brown deliver a “two-list heuristic” that demonstrates the often-subtle oppressive language that occurs in writing center spaces for readers to apply in their own Centers. They claim that the locality of their results is a strength, as they don’t claim to be an authoritative figure on the subject. I take inspiration from this model is a useful deliverable, but we hope to have the funds and time to conduct a larger-scale study. With a local inventory of our Center’s emotional labor patterns, I hope to be able to offer a number of possible trends and coping mechanisms to the field.

To get this process started, I recently created an open-ended survey to begin this process, and the data I’ve gathered so far attests to a need for further naming and studying of emotional labor. This has helped me to identify patterns that have been recognized in Writing Center scholarship, but also outliers that suggest we have more work to do.

The major patterns I’ve seen thus far include the importance of talking to other consultants as a coping mechanism and that the most emotionally charged labor is being performed in sessions with unresponsive or stressed writers. This indicates both the importance of our 50-minute sessions (to allow ten minutes to write a report and decompress), but also helps guide how future consultants might be prepared during our trainings to manage the emotional work of consulting with unresponsive writers.

Some of my findings aligned with existing emotional work. For example, our consultants tend to experience what one called “second-hand stress,” but must mask these feelings of anxiety for their writer in order to encourage them in the session. However, there were also some surprises. The most unique finding is that a consultant stated she performs emotional labor the most when she identifies with the writer to some degree, namely if they remind her of a loved one. This was a response I had not come across in my research, gesturing to the idea that there are countless reasons for performing emotional labor that are not yet named.

Many writing centers do not train consultants for the inevitable performance of emotional labor, ours included. This is what led me to begin this project to create a replicable inventory of emotional labor performance in our center. Creating inventories and heuristic models of emotional labor performance may be useful to you in your Writing Center because they can serve as the basis for various types of research. If there’s a pattern you feel happening in your specific writing center, maybe due to factors such as the staff’s gender or racial makeup, the size of your center, or any other special elements, an inventory would allow you to have information about emotional labor in your particular center that you may not see represented in Writing Center scholarship writ large.

Our hope is to use this inventory to provide more tailored training materials or a heuristic model that can be shared across hiring cycles. Ultimately, you can simply start an open dialogue about emotional labor among your consultants. They may already be talking about it without naming it as such, but by doing so, you validate those conversations as worthy of study and demonstrate care for the well-being of your staff.

Taking a Flexible Approach to Writers’ Use of AI

Jameson Reid, Writing Consultant

As a writing center that serves many disciplines, we work with writers who are given quite a few different perspectives on the use of AI in their writing. In this week’s blog post Jameson explains some early thoughts on how we are working to stay flexible and responsive when AI…[hey, ChatGPT finish this sentence].

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At the University of Louisville it is clear that generative AI is an important matter that the university needs to be prepared for. The Writing Center especially is going to have to deal with students who are trying to navigate using genAI safely. In fact, we likely engage most directly with a student’s writing process and are therefore at the frontlines of student AI use in writing. Our goal is to make the Writing Center an important part of the University’s response. This blog will detail what we are doing at The University of Louisville Writing Center in response to generative AI.

First it is important to understand the writing challenges that our center faces. We strive to help writers from any discipline and at any level of expertise. This means many different views on how AI should be used. We can’t just have one response for every student. Students are coming from everywhere on campus with papers that could be at any point in the writing process. Currently, the university is holding meetings on AI, and we have found that a number of schools and departments (the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering in particular) want their students actively experimenting with AI in all facets of their work. The challenge that they offer to us is finding ways to support their students in the ethical and productive use of these technologies.

In my experience trying to use AI to complete assignments as a graduate student in English, there is very little AI can do for me. It can’t perform a close reading or make an elaborate point to the level of detail that could be useful. And of course, I care a lot about writing and take care to have my own voice. I imagine other writing center professionals will have a similar perspective, but other disciplines have a completely different experience with writing. AI could relieve what they see as a burden. So, it is important that we recognize this side and be a writing center for all writers, not just use an English perspective on the uses of AI.

For this reason, if your university currently isn’t engaging with AI at all then I would suggest the most important thing they can do for the writing center is to advocate for clear academic policies for the different colleges, and even courses, so consultants have some rules to work off of. That will also be useful in designing training for consultants and developing a policy on AI ethics.

Without clearly outlined policies for each course, the consultants don’t exactly know what to do. They don’t want to accidentally get a student to commit some academic violation. Then the first order of business is to get the staff knowledgeable enough about AI so that we can meet the challenge of serving differing AI approaches across campus.

As part of my work at the writing center, I designed a workshop for consultants with the purpose of getting them up to date on how AI can engage in the writing process. This means educating them on the best uses of AI as well as weaknesses and potential pitfalls. It also expresses our current ethos of not pushing AI use onto any student. This workshop is just to prepare consultants to answer questions when writers bring up AI. We do not want to create conflicts with any professor’s AI policy, especially as these policies can be confusing or change quickly. With that in mind, the training also emphasizes familiarizing oneself with a professor’s policy and how to navigate when they do not have one. There are many uses of AI that do not require copying and pasting generated text. Consultants should be able to lead writers to safe and effective AI uses.

Our center has not seen very many writers who openly share that they have used AI. We expect that to change as assignments and even classes are designed around these new technologies. We also recognize the importance of keeping in touch with the experience of our consultants in the ways writers are using AI. This will allow us to update our training and internal policies on the best pedagogies. As the group that gets the closest to a student’s writing process, data from the writing center will be useful for understanding how students are actually engaging with AI based assignments. There are after session reports that will contain this information, and we will also make sure that this is a topic of discussion in our monthly mentor groups.

At the University of Louisville Writing Center, we are taking a positive approach to AI. The training is not how to detect if a student is using AI so we can call them out and lecture them. We want to be curious about how generative AI can aid in the writing process, and we want to be on the frontlines of this exploration. That means being well informed on AI technology, engaging with students’ writing processes, and supporting the university’s goals.

Improving Writing: The Gateway to Success Through Conference Participation

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This week’s post comes from Shayani Almeida, one of our consultants who has also helped to arrange this year’s remarkable line-up of collaborative projects enacted through the Thomas R. Watson conference. The title of this year’s conference is CREATE, CONNECT, REFLECT: Launching Collaborations and (Re)building Community in Our Fields.

For more information, please visit the conference’s website:


Applications to join one of these collaborative teams are due by February 2 nd


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We understand the challenges that all writers encounter and the effort they put into creating meaningful content. Whenever a writer walks into the writing center, they are focused more on completing the assignment for the course or getting higher grades. Yet I think that there should be more avenues for consultants and writing center administrators to demonstrate their skills. This would not only celebrate their writing skills but also allow them to voice out their writing, which ultimately opens doors to immense opportunities. One of the best way to display your expertise and share your insights with a wider audience would be by participating in conferences.  

The Watson Conference in Rhetoric and Composition is one such conference that allows individuals to demonstrate their skills and ideas. This will open doors for the initiation of collaborative projects and enhance access for participation. The conference consists of several projects mainly focusing on graduate students and the faculty.  For example, ‘The Graduate Reading Exchange’ is one of the collaborative projects that graduate students could join, and ‘Grit Is Not It: Reckoning with Resilience in “Post” – Pandemic FYC’ is another project the faculty could join. This would be a great avenue for writing center folks to connect, collaborate, and enhance their skills. So, do not hesitate – explore these conference opportunities, share your thoughts, and embrace the transformative experience that awaits you.

If you’re a busy graduate student, you might be wondering, “Why should you take part in a conference?” Participating in a conference allows you to demonstrate your skills and knowledge in a perceptible way. A significant advantage of conference participation is the opportunity to network. Here, you will connect with professionals and fellow writers who share your passion. This is a platform that fosters collaboration and helps you improve your skills. Conferences are also about learning. You will get the opportunity to attend sessions, engage in discussions, discover new writing techniques, gain insights, and widen your knowledge as a writer. This will further help you boost your confidence.

Applying to conferences is a decision that could redefine your journey as a writer. It is an investment in yourself and your skills.  If you’re interested in taking part in the Watson, there are collaborative teams dedicated to:

  •  Fostering partnerships between Two Year/Four-Year college writing programs (Zoom)
  • Fostering connections between high school and college writing (Zoom)
  • Creating an App to support ungrading. (Zoom)
  • Organizing and humanizing the teaching track in rhetoric and composition (Zoom)
  • Thinking through how reading and writing can work as reflexive tools. (Zoom)
  • The use of zines to imagine a more humane, restorative, and just world of higher education (Hybrid)
  • Translating Chatino prayers and political speech (Hybrid)
  • Collecting and sharing counterstories from indigenous peoples for an edited collection (in person)
  • Producing a public syllabus focused on writing for movement-building, activism, and social justice. (in person)
  • Creating a statement of purpose and values for a tentative trans studies conference (in person)
  • Creating a team-authored website demystifying the specialized disciplinary reading and writing practices of graduate students (in person)
  • Examining what the term resilience has meant, how it is inequitably applied in First Year Composition, and how it might be more productively re-defined. Ultimately, this group will create an archive of prompts that work to activate resilience in FYC. (in person)
  • Beginning a large-scale, multi-institutional study of graduate student writing development with a particular focus on underrepresented domestic and international students’ experiences in graduate programs. (in person)

We’ll see you there!

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This program was approved for students entering the university in the Summer 2024–Spring 2025 catalog year. For more information about catalog year, go to Catalog Year Information .

Minor in Business Communication

Unit: College of Business Department: Management Academic Plan Code(s): BUCOMINOR

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Students may also count courses from other departments toward the minor upon mutual agreement of the departments.

At least three (3) semester hours of the requirements for a minor must be successfully completed while enrolled in the University of Louisville.

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Mary Kate Roohan Psy.D.

What Creative Arts Therapies Teach Us About DBT Skills Training

Bridging dbt with the arts for deeper understanding..

Posted April 15, 2024 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

  • What Is Therapy?
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  • Research supports the effectiveness of combining DBT with creative arts to improve outcomes.
  • Facilitators can teach wise-mind skills through drama therapy techniques.
  • Action-based DBT utilizes storytelling and role-play to make skill learning more accessible and impactful.

In the ever-evolving realm of mental health, therapists are always exploring new and innovative methods to enhance traditional treatments. Creative arts therapists have led the way in utilizing art-based interventions to teach DBT skills.

Creative arts therapy combines visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing, and other creative processes to support clients in their healing process. Many mental health clinicians have embraced creative arts therapy interventions to improve their clients' health and wellness.

There is a growing body of research that indicates that therapists can utilize creative interventions to help clients learn and generalize DBT skills. In this post, I will provide a brief literature review of therapists who have been doing this integrative work and provide an example of how drama therapy can be utilized to teach the DBT skill of wise mind.

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DBT and Art Therapy

Research indicates that integrating art therapy into established psychotherapy forms, such as cognitive-behavioral therapies, can have significant positive effects on client well-being. For example, a study by Monti et al. (2012) demonstrated the potential of mindfulness -based art therapy (MBAT) in alleviating emotional distress, highlighting the power of combining art therapy with the core feature of mindfulness in DBT. Though this study did not specifically discuss DBT, it demonstrated that implementing mindfulness, a core component of DBT, can assist individuals who are facing significant physical and emotional stressors.

Building on research that examined mindfulness and art therapy, several practitioners have contributed articles that specifically address the integration of DBT and art therapy within clinical populations. For example, researchers Huckvale and Learmonth (2009) led the charge by developing a new and innovative art therapy approach grounded in DBT for patients facing mental health challenges. Furthermore, Heckwolf, Bergland, and Mouratidis (2014) demonstrated how visual art and integrative treatments could help clients access DBT, resulting in stronger generalization and implementation of these skills outside of the session. The clinicians concluded that this integrative approach to treatment could reinforce skills, contribute to interdisciplinary team synergy, and enact bilateral integration.

Other notable examples from art therapists include Susan Clark’s (2017) DBT-informed art therapy, a strategic approach to treatment that incorporates creative visual exercises to explore, practice, and generalize DBT concepts and skills.

Expanding Beyond Visual Art Therapy

DBT has now been integrated with other expressive art therapies, including drama and music. Art therapists Karin von Daler and Lori Schwanbeck (2014) were instrumental in this expansion when they developed Creative Mindfulness, an approach to therapy integrating various expressive arts therapies with DBT. Creative Mindfulness “suggests a way of working therapeutically that is as containing and structured as DBT and as creative, embodied, and multi-sensory as expressive arts” (p. 235). These clinicians incorporated improvisation into their work, a tool that can be simultaneously playful, experiential, and grounding, ultimately producing substantial new insights for clients.

Moreover, music and drama therapists have recognized the benefits of multisensory skill teaching, expanding the creative techniques used to teach DBT skills ( Deborah Spiegel, 2020 ; Nicky Morris, 2018 , and Roohan and Trottier, 2021 ).

My Own Experience Integrating Drama Therapy and DBT

Personally, I am a big advocate of both dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and drama therapy. In fact, I love these modalities so much that I dedicated not only my master's thesis but also my dissertation to better understanding how to reinforce DBT skills through dramatic techniques. In the process, I developed a new approach called Action-Based DBT that uses dramatic interventions like storytelling, embodiment, and role-playing to create a supportive environment for participants to learn skills in a more personalized and embodied way. An expert panel review demonstrated that this format can effectively support skill learning, especially for clients who struggle with the standard format of DBT skills training. Additionally, mental health clinicians found the program easily adaptable across populations in both individual and group settings.

Embodying the Mind States

To illustrate this approach and its effectiveness, the following is an example of how drama therapy methods can teach the DBT skill of wise mind within the context of an action-based DBT group.

The facilitator begins the group session by reviewing general guidelines and introducing the targeted DBT skill for the day: wise mind. The group then participates in improvisational warm-up activities to promote creativity , positive social interaction, and group connectivity. Following the warm-up, the facilitator distributes the DBT mind states handout (Linehan, 2015) and provides brief psychoeducation on this skill. Three chairs are placed in the front of the group room, facing the semi-circle of clients. Each chair had a piece of colored construction paper taped to the front, reading as Reasonable, Wise and Emotion . The facilitator explains that each chair represents one of the three mind states: reasonable mind, emotion mind and wise mind. To encourage exploration of the mind states, the facilitator can assign a more specific role to each state of mind. For example, the reasonable mind is The Computer, the emotion mind is The Tornado, and the wise mind is The Sage. Group members are invited to think of a scenario in which they felt they had difficulty accessing their wise mind. Clients then take turns embodying each mind state by sitting in the chair and speaking from the respective role. When a client first sits in a chair, the facilitator aids in enrolling the individual by asking questions about the role (i.e. The Computer, The Tornado, The Sage). For example, the facilitator may ask about the posture, tone of voice, or a “catchphrase” for this role. The client then embodies the role and responds to questions from the group as the specific mind state. After the embodiment, clients engage in verbal processing. The wise mind directive supports clients in developing kinaesthetic awareness of the three mind states. Embodying these mind states within the context of a supportive group and engaging in verbal processing around the experience can increase awareness of the mind states, which is helpful for clients who are trying to understand their emotional response to lived events outside of the group setting.

The creative arts therapies offer a dynamic pathway to teaching and reinforcing DBT skills. Incorporating visual art, drama, or music in the process of learning DBT skills allows clients to engage with these concepts in a multisensory and embodied way.

In my personal experience, weaving drama therapy techniques into DBT skills training has proven to be profoundly impactful. The Action-Based DBT approach, with its emphasis on storytelling and embodiment, offers an immersive and experiential learning environment that can be especially beneficial for those who find traditional methods challenging.

Looking ahead, my next post will delve into how storytelling can be harnessed to teach DBT skills in a way that is both engaging and memorable.

To find a therapist, please visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory .

Clark, S. M. (2017). DBT-informed art therapy: Mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, and the creative process. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Heckwolf, J. I., Bergland, M. C., & Mouratidis, M. (2014). Coordinating principles of art therapy and DBT. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(4), 329-335.

Huckvale, K., & Learmonth, M. (2009). A case example of art therapy in relation to dialectical behaviour therapy. International Journal of Art Therapy, 14(2), 52-63.

Monti, D. A., Kash, K. M., Kunkel, E. J., Brainard, G., Wintering, N., Moss, A. S., Rao, H., Zhu, S., & Newberg, A. B. (2012). Changes in cerebral blood flow and anxiety associated with an 8-week mindfulness programme in women with breast cancer. Stress and Health, 28(5), 397-407.

Morris, N. (2018). Dramatherapy for borderline personality disorder: Empowering and nurturing people through creativity. Routledge.

Roohan Mary Kate, Trottier Dana George. (2021) Action-based DBT: Integrating drama therapy to access wise mind. Drama Therapy Review, 7 (2), 193 https://doi.org/10.1386/dtr_00073_1

Spiegel, D., Makary, S., & Bonavitacola, L. (2020). Creative DBT activities using music: Interventions for enhancing engagement and effectiveness in therapy. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Von Daler, K., and Schwanbeck, L. (2014). Creative mindfulness: Dialectical behavior therapy and expressive arts therapy. In L. Rappaport (Ed.), Mindfulness and the arts therapies: Theory and practice (pp. 107-116). Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Mary Kate Roohan Psy.D.

Mary Kate Roohan, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist and drama therapist and the founder of Thrive and Feel, a therapy practice that supports clients in managing emotional sensitivity.

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Department of English

M.f.a. creative writing.

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  1. Creative Writing

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  1. Creative Writing Program

    Director of Creative Writing [email protected] 318 D Bingham Humanities University of Louisville Louisville, Kentucky 40292 Phone: (502) 852-5921 Fax: (502) 852-4182 Links. Creative Writing Student Features: Across the Bluegrass Creative Writing Scholarships and Awards Creative Writing Contests Axton Reading Schedule Faculty Readings ...

  2. English Creative Writing (Minor) < University of Louisville

    6. Minimum Total Hours. 18. Students wishing to major in English and minor in Creative Writing will have to earn a minimum of 126 credits to complete both the major and the minor. At least three (3) semester hours of the requirements for a minor must be successfully completed while enrolled in the University of Louisville.

  3. Creative Writing Group

    The Creative Writing Group will meet in the University Writing Center from 12-1:30pm on the following Tuesdays: - January 23. - February 27. - March 26. - April 23. For more information, please email or call us at 852-2173. creative writing, writing group, writing center events.

  4. UofL Creative Writing

    UofL Creative Writing. 448 likes. Axton Reading Series. Creative Writing Workshops. Calvino Prize. Miracle Monocle.

  5. University of Louisville's Creative Writing Program

    Find details about every creative writing competition—including poetry contests, short story competitions, essay contests, awards for novels, grants for translators, and more—that we've published in the Grants & Awards section of Poets & Writers Magazine during the past year. We carefully review the practices and policies of each contest before including it in the Writing Contests ...

  6. About Us

    The University Writing Center helps any University of Louisville writers-students, faculty, and staff -to work on their writing by providing individual sessions, writing resources, and a comfortable place to write. In serving the University community, the Center complements and supplements classroom instructions by promoting attitudes and activities essential to writing well, including ...

  7. Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Writing

    Creative Writing Groups: We are starting new creative writing groups for anyone in the UofL community interested in working on creative writing projects. The groups will meet once a month on a Tuesday during the fall semester allowing people to explore creative writing in a safe, open, and encouraging environment.

  8. Creative Writing Program

    DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH. Bingham Humanities 315. 2216 S. 1 st Street. University of Louisville. Louisville, Kentucky 40292

  9. ‎UofLCreativeWriting on Apple Podcasts

    The podcasting feed for the Creative Writing Department at the University of Louisville. DEC 6, 2019 Casey Plett at the University of Louisville w/ Introduction by Adam Yeich

  10. University of Louisville Writing Center

    Our staff often engage in other creative processes as part of their learning and writing. In this week's blog post, Mary Sherafati discusses how she finds practicing her painting skills similar to the process of becoming a stronger writer. ... Another idea, as the University of Louisville writing center, we create a model for a JCPS high ...

  11. UofL Writing Center

    UofL Writing Center, Louisville, Kentucky. 135 likes · 3 talking about this. The University Writing Center helps any UofL writers to work on their writing at any stage in the wr UofL Writing Center | Louisville KY

  12. Creative Writing

    The Creative Writing model, when sufficiently diverse, is adequate preparation for admission to graduate writing programs. Category I: At least two, but not more than six, upper-division creative writing workshops. Students are encouraged to take one workshop in an alternate genre: CRW 3310 Adv. Sem: Poetry.

  13. Apply

    Deadline: We will not accept applications for the MFA in Creative Writing for academic year 2024-2025. We will resume our usual admissions cycle next year. You must apply to the University online through the UF Online Application Portal . The portal will guide you through the process and provide information on the application fee.

  14. Welcome

    Welcome to the University Writing Center. The University Writing Center serves everyone in the UofL community, including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff. We can help you at any point in your writing process, from getting started with an idea, to working on a first draft, to revision and copyediting.

  15. M.A. in English

    M.A. in English. The Department of English at the University of Louisville proudly offers a Master's degree in English. Our M.A. program offers advanced training in literary studies, with options for coursework in creative writing, rhetoric and composition, and professional writing.

  16. Business Communication (Minor) < University of Louisville

    This practical minor in Business Communication provides a much needed resume credential to showcase skills in team building, persuasion, interpersonal communication, presentations with technology, and writing. The minor is available to all UofL students. For non-business majors, a cumulative GPA of 2.5 is required for admittance to the program.

  17. What Creative Arts Therapies Teach Us About DBT Skills Training

    Creative arts therapists have led the way in utilizing art-based interventions to teach DBT skills. Creative arts therapy combines visual arts, movement, drama, music, writing, and other creative ...

  18. M.F.A. Faculty

    Associate Chair and Professor of English; Co-director, MFA in Creative Writing; Co-director, Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies. Brink Hall 228. [email protected]. Read More.

  19. UofL Writing, Editing & Publishing Lab

    These resources will be made available to any student currently enrolled in English at the University of Louisville, but graduates of our programs in creative writing, professional and public writing, literature, or rhetoric and composition will also have free and unlimited access to Lab materials. Students who engage with the Lab, whether by ...

  20. Creative Writing Club at UF

    The Creative Writing Club at the University of Florida is open for students who wish to get more involved with... Creative Writing Club at UF. 196 likes. The Creative Writing Club at the University of Florida is open for students who wish to get more involved with writing. We workshop, write, learn from each...

  21. English Minor Tracks and Requirements

    English 310 = 3 hours. One writing elective at the 300-level = 3 hours. Two writing electives at the 400-level = 6 hours. Two writing electives at the 500-level = 6 hours. Minimum Total = 18 hours. Note: English majors on the Literature or Creative Writing tracks may minor in Professional and Public Writing and share no more than 9 hours ...

  22. University of Louisville Writing Center

    University Writing Center. Ekstrom Library 132. Kornhauser Library 221. University of Louisville. Louisville, Kentucky 40292. Hours. Summer 2024. Ekstrom Library. M -F 9 am - 4 pm.

  23. Adobe Creative Campus at UofL

    What is provided through the UofL enterprise license: All 20 applications allowing you to create documents, videos, audio, graphic design, photos, illustrations, websites, mobile apps, and more. Creative Cloud Libraries providing you with 100 gigabytes of cloud storage space for saving and sharing documents and assets.