Joined Imaginations: Writing and Language in Therapy
by Peggy Penn, Ph.D.
Taos Institute Publications, 2009
Price: $24.00 US plus shipping and handling
Paperback, 149 pages
As the title, Joined Imaginations, suggests, this volume takes us into the lives of Peggy Penn’s clients and illustrates how her love of language and its infinite possibilities invites the creation of new stories, new possibilities, and joined imaginations. Peggy positions herself as a master of double description as she takes on the serious business of clients’ problems by expanding their voices as well as the means by which those voices are given expression.
This book is about language and writing and therapy. Joined Imaginations draws on Mikhail Bakhtin’s idea of “dialogism in therapy” and attempts to illustrate how we author ourselves in conversation with others. Using the ideas of inner and outer dialogue, coupled with an understanding of subtext (an idea taken from the author’s work in the theatre) the therapeutic conversation is seen as creating a text. Therapist and client build a new story together — in their talk and in writing — it is a “participant text.” Creating a participant text is more than the usual talk of therapy. This volume features the use of writing as a central part of the therapeutic process. The client writes from new and appreciative stances and the byproduct is a change in one’s life story; the result, a “kind of” literature. The act of writing invites meanings that have been ignored or unspoken into the relational field by way of the text. Words cross or bump up against one another when captured in writing, cracking open and revealing other words that may evoke experiences of self with others. This book is for all readers who use language as a treatment option. It is the author’s hope that their extended language will attract others. Language has the properties of mystery and insight beyond its use in direct expression. More than reading a volume on social construction and therapeutic practice, this book takes us into the magical world of language and the drama of life.
Writing this book has been a pleasure for me. I have deeply enjoyed the friends who have worked with me, and been particularly thrilled to witness people discovering new voices of theirs, voices that become a kind of art work reaching out to the missing people in their lives, who are alive or dead, fostering reconnections and often love.
– Peggy Penn, Ph.D.
What a wonderful book! I didn’t except to be so taken by it and be so stirred. Explanations and experiences abound, emotion emerges. Numerous poems complete the chapters and will surprise any reader. An outstanding book written for therapists who seek to explore other ways to reconnect people with themselves and the others. Peggy Penn has shared her long experience and deep knowledge in a very open text.
— Warm Wishes, Alain Robiolio, Switzerland
Peggy Penn’s annotated collection of seven of her most innovative essays invites readers’ multi-voiced responses to the ideas and insights in this beautiful work. Penn’s deep engagement with the people with whom she works and the practices she has developed – letter-writing, future questioning – are vividly portrayed, both in the original papers and in Penn’s contemporary commentary on them. We are shown a compassionate witnessing stance, one that never fears suffering, yet stands in awe of it. The reader comes to appreciate Penn’s fully embodied collaboration with her clients. Each essay is joined with one of Penn’s poems; true “double description.”
— Kaethe Weingarten, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
Peggy Penn is a gift to the therapeutic profession. It is not simply her clinical sensitivity, her keen insights into the human condition, and her transformative poetry from which so many of us draw. Nor is it only the outwardly radiating warmth and laughter. In addition it is her capacity to weave together scholarly understanding, aesthetic sensitivity, and the goals of therapeutic practice in innovative and far reaching ways, that is so richly rewarding. All these elements are brought forward in the pages of this precious work.
— Kenneth J. Gergen, Ph.D., Taos Institute President and co-founder, Mustin Professor of Psychology – Emeritus, Swarthmore College
Peggy Penn’s book skillfully and gracefully traverses the edge between life and art. Her deep love of words and language, often in the form of poetry, also reflects an abiding philosophical stance about the power of language to shape relationships. Language and listening are the most powerful tools a therapist has, and Peggy Penn explores them with curiosity, interest, and reverence. My mother found her true calling in this work, and her commitment to its beauty and power to shape our emotional landscape is inspirational.
— Molly Penn
As the title, Joined Imaginations, suggests, this volume takes us into the lives of Peggy Penn’s clients and illustrates how her love of language and its infinite possibilities invites the creation of new stories, new possibilities, and joined imaginations. Peggy positions herself as a master of double description as she takes on the serious business of clients’ problems by expanding their voices as well as the means by which those voices are given expression. More than reading a volume on social construction and therapeutic practice, this book takes us into the magical world of language and the drama of life. What better way to illustrate the construction of more livable stories?
— Sheila McNamee, Ph.D., Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire, Taos Institute Founder and Board Member
Joined Imagination reads like a riveting fireside chat with a wise woman and inventive therapist who has long travelled on family therapy’s bountiful caravan. From Gregory Bateson to Kenneth Gergen, Tom Andersen to Michael White, Peggy Penn draws from a diversity of rich ideas and practices, weaving therapeutic stories in a confident, creative voice. Her practical impulse is to do whatever is helpful for the families she works with; this gives rise to an impressive range of approaches, recounted as engaging stories, which exude an abiding commitment to making space for multiple voices. Welcome among them is Peggy Penn’s own—her thoughtful and sometimes playful musings are a gift to the field.
— David Paré, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Ottawa