Research: TSW Groups

The evidence-base shows Therapeutic Storywriting Groups develop pupils’ emotional wellbeing and improve academic literacy skills.

Research Findings Summary Sheet for Schools

2015 Holder, J.  (PhD thesis, Soton)

An exploration of the Therapeutic Storywriting intervention as a means of reducing anxiety and enhancing working memory and the academic attainment of anxious children.


2013 Hampshire Educational Psychology Service (Batchelor, J;  Murray, J.; Warhurst, A. and Maclean, G.;  Hampshire Educational Psychology)

Evaluation of Therapeutic Storywriting Groups in Hampshire

Summary: In 2012, fifteen schools in Gosport made use of Forces funding to commission Hampshire Educational Psychology to give training in how to run Therapeutic Story Writing (TSW) groups for the benefit of Forces children. This research evaluated the impact of the TSW groups in these schools.

The young people from forces families and non-forces families enjoyed attending the groups and felt emotionally supported, increasing their confidence and sense of belonging, as well as their motivation to write and participate in class. They showed academic as well as emotional gains.


2013 Maclean, G. (PhD thesis, Soton)

Exploring Children’s Writing during a Therapeutic Storywriting Intervention: A Mixed Methods Study


Summary: This PhD thesis documents a systematic review of research  to explore the effects of therapeutic writing interventions on students’ emotional and academic outcomes. Therapeutic writing interventions were found to be effective in reducing symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety and were related to improvements in academic performance. Underlying mechanisms that were associated with positive outcomes included changes in cognition, improvements in coping strategies and improvements in working memory capacity. The author then used a sequential explanatory mixed methods design to investigate the effects of a therapeutic storywriting intervention on children’s writing. The results indicate that pupils in Therapeutic Storywriting groups made significantly greater academic gains compared to a control group and extended their use of emotional and causal words.


2013 Harris, L (PhD thesis, Soton)

Evaluating the Impact of Therapeutic Storywriting on Children’s Resilience and Emotional and Behavioural Adjustment (full thesis)


Summary: The empirical paper evaluated whether Therapeutic Storywriting (TSW, Waters, 2004) can enhance resilience and emotional and behavioural adjustment. Results showed that there was a significant increase in the emotional vocabulary and sense of belonging of pupils in primary school pupils experiencing SEBD.  The research indicates that Therapeutic Storywriting Groups are an effective intervention for increasing two significant protective factors associated with pupil resilience, when delivered by trained school staff.


2010 Waters, T (PhD thesis, Soton)

The Use of Therapeutic Storywriting to support Pupils with Behavioural, Emotional and Social Difficulties


Summary: This PhD by Publication provides a commentary on 5 published research papers and covers both Therapeutic Storywriting Groups and Story Links. The first three papers focus on the Therapeutic Storywriting Groups model. The first is a piece of practitioner research and explores the psychodynamic aspects of therapeutic storywriting, illustrated by an individual profile of a pupil with selective mutism. The second is also practitioner research and extends the theoretical framework to include aspects of psychosynthesis theory and in particular Assagioli’s theory of subpersonalities. The third paper evaluates the impact of Therapeutic Storywriting Groups, delivered by a cohort of educational professionals trained by the researcher, on pupils’ emotional, social and academic development. The findings, largely drawn from interviews with the pupils themselves, show how the groups enabled pupils to use the medium of story writing to process emotional experiences and increased their motivation to engage in writing.


2008  Waters, T. (British Journal of Learning Support)

‘The Use of Therapeutic Storywriting Groups to Support Pupils with Emotional Difficulties’ in British Journal of Learning Support Vol. 23, No 4 pp 187-192

Summary: This journal article presents the theoretical basis for Therapeutic Storywriting Groups, an outline of how they work in practice and a summary of the research report commissioned by SERSEN to evaluate their impact on pupils’ learning. The article finishes with a short case study of a nine-year-old boy who is on the special educational needs register for behavioural, emotional and social difficulties.


2004 Trisha Waters (South-east Region SEN Partnership report)

Writing Stories with Feeling:  An evaluation of the impact of Therapeutic Storywriting groups on pupils’ learning.

Summary: This research, commissioned by the South-east Region SEN partnership, evaluated the impact of  Therapeutic Storywriting Groups in five primary schools. The results showed that the intervention:

  • enabled pupils to use  writing to process difficult feelings
  • encouraged pupils to develop co-operative and trusting relationships with peers
  • supported listening and speaking skills
  • increased pupils’ concentration and motivation to write


2001  Waters, (BPRS Research Report, Sussex University)

Best Practice Research Report: evaluation of impact of training on teachers’ practice. 

Summary: This MA research, funded by a DfES Best Practice Research Scholarship is the initial research into the Therapeutic Storywriting model. It looks at how the context of teaching english literacy can be used to also support vulnerable pupils’ emotional development.The paper describes and evaluates three pupil profiles set within a mainstream junior school where the author worked as the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO).  The research indicates that by encouraging story writing which engages aspects of the self  expressed through story metaphor, the children’s motivation to write may be increased which, in turn, can lead to an improvement in academic literacy skills and self-esteem.


Flyer of Research Findings for Schools