Work experience opportunity for PhD students!

Stephen May from the Screen Arts Institute is looking for a King’s researcher who is already familiar with expressive writing or linguistics studies and/or arts research in relation to mental health.

Title of Project:

“YOU Are Your Story – A student-centred participatory project, using the power of Story-Prompted Expressive Writing (SPEW)”


They now have 40 years of research to illustrate the extraordinary benefits of tiny pieces of “expressive writing” – just 15 minutes of writing x 4.  But collective data suggests that only 52% of participants benefit in a really significant way.  Further studies strongly suggest that it is the ability to develop a narrative shape in these pieces of writing that is the key to benefit.  A very interesting study in 2017, “The Impact of Narrative Expressive Writing on Heart Rate, Heart Rate Variability, and Blood Pressure Following Marital Separation” (May 8 2017, The Journal Psychosomatic Medicine) is one of a few recent studies that supports this observation with some specific data.


Their proposal is to run a mini Random Control Trial that compares the outcomes of traditional (non-narratively guided) expressive writing with Story-Prompted Expressive Writing (SPEW).  SPEW is a proprietary intervention developed by Stephen May and The Screen Arts Institute, which uses “classical story structure” prompts and motifs to guide participants.


We suggest a further sophistication in the delivery of the project by including elements of psycho-education and facilitation with one group of students, and leaving another group to self-facilitate.

This project follows in the footsteps of 40 years of practice and thousands of hours of workshops run in outreach programmes, creative writing programmes and mental health initiatives.


Stephen May and The Screen Arts Institute have been collaborating with several HE institutions (including: Kings, SOAS, LSE, Westminster) with a mind to integrating Story-Guided Mentoring into the formal fabric of undergraduate programmes as a primary preventative intervention in the context of personal development and mental health challenges.  The chair of UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy) has identified Story-Guided Mentoring initiatives as “the best form of triage” for mental health issues in an educational context, and we have already provided consultancy to the membership of the BACP (British Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists).


The Artist Residency at Kings would be a unique opportunity to investigate these interventions within the rigour of the UK’s leading mental health research institute.


Possible random controlled trial groups:

Full SPEW programme (12 x expressive writing) facilitated in class by Stephen May – including psycho-education and story structure briefing

X 4 trauma SPEW facilitated.

X 4 trauma SPEW not facilitated

X 4 trauma, traditional expressive writing

X 4 days journalling/creative writing

Group with no interventions.



Do HRV tests before and after

Do self-assessment form before and after

Info on medication, visits to doctors, absence from college – before and after

Info on projected grades – and grades achieved at uni. ?


Big questions:

How do we source students/staff to take part?

How many in each group? 10?

Can we automate follow-up assessment (particularly for self-assessment forms)

Ethics issues?

If you are interested in this exciting opportunity, please go to KCC to learn more and apply.