Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Ambar Basu, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Arthur Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.


addiction, autoethnography, emotions, grief and trauma, narrative reframing


In this dissertation, I seek to examine the effects of purposeful journaling and guided storytelling on past traumas, perception of current lives, and the development of new coping skills among men at The Salvation Army’s residential adult rehabilitation center (ARC). All residents of the ARC must attend Christian-based devotional services, go to Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meetings, follow the A.A. 12-step program, and sign up for several weekly counseling and educational groups, one of which is the “Guided Journaling and Storytelling” group I lead. The men who attended this group are (1) addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, (2) face homelessness, (3) cope with some form of mental or physical health issue, (4) may have criminal records, and (5) have alienated most of their social support.

Through a twelve-week curriculum I developed, I introduced coping skills—building resilience, expressive writing, and deep breathing—while incorporating art, music, and poetry in the groups. I elicited participants’ stories through prompts, using my own experiences to model vulnerability and demonstrate concepts, such as: narrative reframing; how memories can be uncertain, partial, and elusive; how storytelling can prompt forgotten stories; and the efficacy of including emotion and rich details in the stories we tell. Knowing the value of writing and storytelling, I set out to see if the communicative practices I had learned in the past that had improved my life situation might assist others to write themselves out of destructive patterns, desperation, and trauma, and into sober and more fulfilling lives.

Included in

Communication Commons