Welcome, Teri Grunthaner!

Teri (to the right) with writer/artist/facilitator Dixie Lubin in the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, KS

Teri (to the right) with writer/artist/facilitator Dixie Lubin in the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, KS

The TLA Network is happy to announce our interim coordinator Teri Grunthaner, who will be answering your emails, keeping records, corresponding with folks, and helping get out the word on our projects, classes, conference, and other opportunities. We’ve asked her to share a few words about her background, and here’s what she has to say:

When I was 18 years old I moved to Humboldt (CA) and joined the circus. Well, it was a club at the university I attended, but it was a circus nonetheless. We performed original theatre productions full of juggling, acrobatics, physical theatre, and shenanigans. We dug deep into ourselves and developed characters that reflected our shadows, guides, and projections. We embodied our stories. We played with our reality and our dreams.

Concurrently, I was taking classes on economics, politics, religion, and environmental studies. I joined other student clubs and community organizations that advocated for social and environmental rights (like MTA), experimented with alternative business and government models (like CoFed), and developed sustainable and appropriate technologies (like CCAT). My membership in and contributions to a community drum ensemble, philosophical study group, and spiritual song and dance circle nourished my soul, and I realized that all of my involvements were in an effort to bring me closer to beloved community.

Then one semester I took a class that changed my life – Theatre of the Oppressed. Dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression suddenly became crystal clear to me as we integrated critical politics, storytelling, and dramatic techniques. I realized how powerful theatre (performance-based and not) was as a means of personal and communal transformation, and decided that I would do my work through this medium.

IMG_1658In 2013 I began a masters program in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Drama Therapy at CIIS in San Francisco. Though I loved my program, I also loved a man who lived in the Midwest. After a year of school, I decided to move to Kansas to be with my partner and continue my education once we deliberated our life plans together. We now live together in East Lawrence, developing the urban permaculture homestead and social justice community center known as the Cosmic Beauty School.

Though my formal education is on hold, I am still working to develop and offer drama therapy groups for social and environmental healing and transformation, addressing such issues as racism, sexism, and apathy/despair in the midst of global catastrophe. I am grateful to be involved in the TLA Network and honored to be contributing as the Interim Coordinator. I have already received much inspiration, connection, and knowledge, and look forward to the many, unpredictable ways our work together will synergize. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me – from TLAN help to creative art therapy collaboration, I’d love to connect with you!

10703615_783888298320051_5165464965787966679_nIn recent weeks, Deb Hensley, the TLAN Coordinator, realized she needed to step down from her coordinator position. An interim coordinator, Teri Grunthaner, started with us Oct. 20 (we’ll be sharing more about Teri soon). Here is Deb’s letter to TLAN members and friends. The TLAN is deeply grateful to Deb for her spark and work, compassion and vision.

Dear TLAN members–friends,artists, brilliant souls, lovers and spinners of words,

I’m writing to let you all know of my recent decision to step away from my position as the Coordinator of our lovely TLAN Network. A new set of personal needs and realities in my life (all good)  have been nudging me for some time now to reassess my professional priorities. The demands of my part time position as Pre-K Director for three counties in mid-coast Maine have been steadily growing. Iʼve been asked to take on more responsibility and increase my hours to close to full time. Add to that some emerging TLA opportunities in my music life, and I’ve had to come to this decision sooner than later.

While I dearly love this Network and have put my heart and soul into it this past year I recognize that I canʼt continue spread myself so thin. With two part time private non-profit jobs, my early childhood consulting, and my own TLA work, I have been  feeling like I wasn’t doing any of these jobs the justice due. So in an effort to defragment I have decided I must let the Network position go.

Please know this decision was not arrived at lightly. I have taken great delight and joy from my affiliation with all of you and it’s very difficult to let the work go as I so believe in it. Still, I know it’s for the best.

Going forward, I would be pleased to continue to participate in the Network in a volunteer capacity after things shake out for me and when the needs of the council become apparent. I will look forward to re-entering the world of the Network in a new role when the time is right.

Meanwhile, I am off to mend my nets and hopefully focus my efforts in a more singular fashion. It’s my great wish that there will be a great haul of goodness for us all.. Thank you for letting me keep my hand on the Network tiller for this past year. It’s been a true joy working with you all.

With gratitude,


Creating Safe and Sacred Space

IMG_4905by Joanna Tebbs Young

It was a new writing workshop, just a few weeks old. Three people had been coming from the beginning, a fourth had joined this particular day. She — I’ll call her Shandell — was nervous; letting me know she hadn’t written in a long time and backing herself into the corner of the couch in self-protective mode.

After I explained the process of this writing group, including the fact that there is never any obligation to share — “I want you to feel safe to write whatever it is you need to write” — I gave the first prompt. In the ensuing silence all that could be heard was the scrabble of pen and crinkle of paper as they scribbled away. Then time was up. 

One by one the writers shared their words, asking Shandell last so she would have a chance to see how it all worked. She declined. I thanked her and moved on. Second prompt. Again, silence and scribbling. 

This time when I looked at Shandell and asked if she’d like to share, she responded, “I wasn’t going to, but now I think I will.” Tears glistened in her eyes as she heard her own words in her own voice. When she was finished the room seemed to exhale. She smiled meekly but I could see the joy in her eyes. From then all, she always shared her writing which made us sometimes grin, sometimes laugh, and always nod in understanding.

This is what can happen in a group or workshop where a sacred or safe space has been created. With this type of writing — or any workshop which calls out the deep and personal — it is vital that the participants feel safe in their emotional nakedness. 

First, let me explain how I understand safe/sacred space. “Safe Space” is fairly self-explanatory: A place where participants feel safe to speak up and out without judgment or repercussion, or fear that their confidence will be betrayed outside the “walls” of the workshop. 

“Sacred Space” is safe space with an added dimension — and this is more elusive and sometimes dependent on the personality of the facilitator and the dynamic of the group — that of Connection. For me, sacred or spiritual means connection to something within and beyond ourselves; to the others in the room, to the nature outside the window, to our Higher/Wiser Self which comes through the writing, and to whatever Source one believes in. It is creating — or tapping into — an energy that is both at once vibrating madly with creativity, and calm and meditatively introspective.

Here are some ways I have found work well to create Safe and Sacred Space:

  • Sit in a circle.
  • Read a confidentially agreement (I use Kathleen Adams’ C.A.R.E.S.: Confidentiality, Acceptance, Respect, Encouragement, Support).
  • Encourage sharing but make it very clear it is optional and no judgment is held towards someone who chooses to pass.
  • If you plan to have discussion after sharing (which, in a reflective/expressive writing group should never be a critique of technique, unless it is with genuine praise), let participants know they always have the option to just be “witnessed.” If a piece is particularly emotional or the writing poses questions through which the writer is working and for which s/he doesn’t need/want well-meaning advice, “witnessing” asks the group to listen respectfully and “respond” only with silence. If the reader is emotional, send him/her loving energy and virtual hugs — never real ones (this can wait until after the group IF the group member is comfortable with the gesture).
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. After someone has shared their work, don’t rush to say something just to fill space. If there’s going to be discussion, allow listeners a moment to take in what they’ve heard and then to form their thoughts. If there is no discussion, wait a moment before thanking the reader and moving on. Sitting with the after-silence can be as powerful as the words themselves.
  • Using some kind of time-keeping device (I use a meditation chime app on my phone) can avoid the difficulty of corralling run-away discussions and assures every member of the group that they will have equal time to share. 
  • After someone has read, thank them. It takes courage to make oneself vulnerable in this way. 
  • Above all, as facilitator listen, really listen. Model for other participants that listening to each other’s deep wisdom is powerful for everyone in the room. 

Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA is a writing and creativity facilitator, certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy, and freelance columnist living in Vermont. Her blog and workshop info can be found at her website, wisdomwithinink.com

When Writing To Relieve Stress Makes You Anxious

writing-journalby Joanna Tebbs Young
I made a mistake.

I recently presented a workshop at a local hospital about using writing as a stress reliever. The small  room was half full. While I am fairly comfortable speaking or facilitating with a larger group, this was a new experience for me in that I was being videoed. Unfortunately, this didn’t allow for audience participation other than quick comments or questions. My usual preference after a writing session is to give the opportunity for sharing (with no obligation) so that the participants warm up to each other and become more of a cohesive group rather than silent students being “lectured at.” This allows them to get more out of the session – to learn from each other and themselves, and not just me.

This particular group never really relaxed. I’m not sure if it was the presence of the video camera or the time of night or the starkness of the room or the lecture-setting (I usually facilitate with the participants arranged in a circle), but there weren’t many questions or comments. In my experience, this was unusual. I could tell by the smiles and head-nodding that most participants were interested in what I was saying, and during the writing prompt times almost everyone wrote until time was called. But there were a couple of women I couldn’t read.

On the anonymous evaluation forms I later received, the comments were all positive. Except for this: “I got more stressed… I left with a knot in my stomach.” Our first prompt had been “What’s going on?” This is one of Kay Adams’ prompts (author of Journal to the Self and founder for the Center for Journal Therapy), and one which I actually had the opportunity to write on in a training with her. And this is where I had messed up in my presentation.

I had forgotten to tell my story.

I had been so excited to take Kay’s class and I sat there in my seat almost busting with anticipation about what I was about to learn. She opened as I did, with the prompt “What’s going on?” I wrote frantically for the timed five minutes. But when she called time I realized I didn’t feel so good. My stomach was doing flip-flops and I was kind of shaky. When Kay asked if anyone wanted to share their feedback of the writing exercise I raised my hand and admitted I felt awful, that the writing had drastically changed my emotional state from happy to downright anxious.

“Hold on to that feeling,” she said. “We’ll work with it later.”

Later, we did another exercise where she invited us to find a word or phrase that had jumped out at us during the first writing. Using another journaling technique I was able to dig deeper into what had actually made me anxious. As a result I made an amazing discovery, which, long story short, prompted me to quit my job in a life-move that was a major steppingstone towards where I am today. The words I wrote in that second write still resonate with me today.

So, I want to say to the woman who left upset: I am sorry. I wish I had explained what Dr. Pennebaker tells us in his book Opening Up and his other works, that writing expressively can cause you to feel worse initially but in the long-run, it will help. I wish that I had been able to tell you that feeling that knot is a good thing! It means you were experiencing your body’s felt-sense (to use Eugene Gendlin’s term from his book Focusing). It meant that you had touched something, made it come alive, got it moving, so that could move past it. This was a first step towards healing.

I made a mistake which I won’t make again. Lesson learned.

For a video of Joanna’s workshop go HERE

Tell Your Story on Intentional Radio

The-Courage-to-Change-300x99In 2006 my husband ended our seven-year partnership over the phone. From another country. We’d been living in Qatar, where I remained for another year, too flattened to move forward, but well aware I had to. For one thing, in that conservative Muslim country, dating is illegal. (Yes, even for the expats.) Yet moving on required a kind of courage I only got from other people, sharing their stories of moving past trauma. So I wrote a book, Hello American Lady Creature (Greenpoint Press, May 31, 2014), and started doing a radio show to help others — like you! — share their stories.
Every week I host “The Courage to Change with Lisa Kirchner,” a half-hour show broadcast on Intention Radio that harnesses the power of storytelling to help people find the courage to keep moving on. I’ve had guests ranging from Tosha Silver (author of Outrageous Openness) to Ophira Eisenberg (author of Screw Everyone and NPR host), to regular “average” folks, all sharing their stories to inspire listeners, help make the load a little lighter.
Have you got a personal story you’d like to share?
You’re here because you tell stories. I’d love to feature you as a guest. It’s a fact: storytellers make the best guests! To see if we have a fit, I need your 100-word or less bio, and three sentence outline of your transformation story. What you were like before, what happened, and what you are like now. Specifics are better than observations. “I hated everyone at work, now I love them,” I get. But, “I was called into HR to be fired. I started long distance running and learned how to put my obsessive energies into other things. Now I run the team.” is better! Email me at info@lisalkirchner.com, use the subject line “Courage to Change Interview Pitch.”
During the half-hour, you’ll get a five-minute block to tell your story. I’ll also need a pic before we schedule our interview. The show is pre-recorded “live” over Skype, no takes! But also, audio only. No fuss with hair and makeup.
I ask guests to participate in a live Twitter chat after the show airs to engage audiences in their story.

“The Courage to Change with Lisa Kirchner” is a weekly half-hour show,  When you schedule I’ll need the short bio (one paragraph) you’d like me to read and use for promo, an ebook version of your book, and your picture. In the 1/2 hour you get a 5-minute block to read something you’ve written that’s tied to your story. I’ll need that, too.

We “pre-record live” (no takes) over Skype voice.

I can’t wait to hear your story, so email me already!
~ Lisa L. Kirchner
t: @lisakirchner

Children Who Journal: Hanging Onto Their Inner Resources

a204574e2c53124336dd72f9af6771e0By Joanna Tebbs Young

The journal is a place to nurture what is best within the self, and I think children understand that. — Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children My daughter, who is eleven, has already managed to accumulate a pretty impressive collection of journals. While the explosion she calls a bedroom obviously doesn’t reflect the tidy genes I passed on, her love of paper and pens and writing does. Although many of the pages are filled with the inked characters that spring from her imagination, as her writing abilities grew, so did the number of written pages. And on those occasions when she comes home from school fighting tears of hurt or frustration, I send her to her journal. This tends to calm the emotional-fireworks enough for a more rational, productive, and pro-active conversation.

Journaling is an extremely flexible and beneficial method for children to explore their creativity, express their emotions, and discover their own inner resources.There are so many reasons why it is a great idea for children – even pre-writers – to keep a journal. Whether it is pages of healthy scribbling, a self-portrait in thick crayon, a retelling of an experience, or a complex fantasy story featuring themselves in the lead role, any self-expression has been proven to improve both physical and mental health. For example, the very act of writing down emotions has been found to promote healing, regulate emotional extremes, and reduce anxiety (resulting in less illness and missed days of school).

Lucia Capacchione, founder of the Creative Journal Method and Inner Child work, lists in her book, The Creative Journal for Children the many benefits of journaling for children:

• The privacy* of a journal with its freedom from judgment or failure:

• The writing and drawing practice — verbal and nonverbal expression:

• The emotional release which comes through the writing and/or drawing allows for:

o Fosters feelings of safety and relaxation

o Encourages self-honesty and spontaneity

o Cultivates a child’s innate creativity and imagination

o Encourages and enhances communication and brainstorming skills

o Develops and integrate both right and left brain functioning

o Acceptance of feelings; self-understanding

o Self-Confidence

o Self-Discovery (of own beliefs, desires, and talents)

But above all, teaching them at a young age to express their feelings in a healthy manner provides them with the skills to not only be aware of their various emotions, but to not be afraid of them. In general, our culture teaches us to suppress our “negative” emotions and intuition at an early age (and in some cases, due to family dynamics, religious/social teachings, and/or trauma, this suppression can be exacerbated to the point of emotional numbness), and re-connecting to this vital, message-giving internal language can be extremely different as an adult. We want to give our children a defense against this unfortunate human habit. Learning from the get-go that emotions are neither good nor bad but rather just messages that can and should be expressed in a safe place, your child will have a leg-up on developing into an emotionally mature adult.

*Privacy: PLEASE respect the privacy of your child’s — especially your pre-teen/teen’s — journal. I have heard from many an adult who can no longer write down their own feelings and/or secrets, or write at all, for that matter, because their trust was broken once upon a time by a snooping parent, sibling, or friend.

Children Who Journal: Helping Themselves in School and Health

Joannaheadshotsmall2-275x300By Joanna Tebbs Young

On the pages of a fat, 3-subject notebook I recorded my loves, my losses, my fears, and my (many) mortifications. Every year from age 13 until I began college I reported the details of my daily life, which to my adult eyes could seem so trivial and silly.

But I know now that those daily scribbles served as a life-line at a tumultuous time of my life. I know from my research into women’s development that it was what allowed me to hang onto my voice – my sense of self – as I was learning who I was and who I wanted to become. At a time when I most needed someone to talk to, my journal was my therapist and friend.

In school, I was a hardworking and high-achieving student, who loved to write research papers. And despite high test-anxiety on such standardized tests as SATS, on lower-stress tests I was able to recall retained knowledge fairly well. And in college I was an honor student.

I can’t say whether it was my daily journaling that helped me academically, but research indicates that it most likely did. I know for a fact it helped me through grad school–without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.


[Journaling] makes learning more concrete, personal, and alive. – Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children

It has been found by both psychologists and teachers that children who journal have a higher success rate in school. Among the findings of the benefits for students are:

·       Improved grades

·       Lower pre-exam anxiety

·       Increased cognitive function

·       Higher problem-solving and decision-making skills

·       Expanded memory

·       Positive social-emotional development

·       Helps those with behavior problems or learning disabilities

Students tend to score higher grades when they first record their feelings about an upcoming exam or school project. It is believed that journaling allows children to gain understanding of their own particular learning style and thought patterns. This would explain why those who journal are able to enhance their own learning experience by giving it personal meaning.

Heightened self-awareness also allows for empathy for, and understanding of, their peers and the self-confidence to speak out on their (and their own) behalf. This allows for an improvement in group dynamics within a school setting.

Teachers who use journals as a classroom tool can be extremely creative with this flexible tool. Both writing and art can be used (some methods and prompts will posted at a later date), and traditional pen-on-paper journals or computerized ones are equally beneficial. Parents should also encourage their children (starting as soon as they can hold a pencil) to journal outside of the classroom as a way to process their thoughts and feelings about their home, school, and inner life. Privacy of these writings is imperative, however!


Providing our children a place and permission to express themselves is one the greatest gifts we can bestow. Help them open a door into themselves. – Lucia Capacchione, The Creative Journal for Children

Children who express, explore and evaluate their thoughts and feelings have a self-awareness that encourages problem-solving and decision-making in a direction of positive change. When a child is aware of his or her own strengths, weaknesses, beliefs and values, he or she can identify and achieve goals and work through problems and their solutions.

Journaling helps children become self-actualized. Ira Progoff, founder of the Intensive Journal Method and author of At a Journal Workshop, believed that when you can identify your own resources – your own inner strengths – you can use them to proceed towards wholeness. By recording their life and their reaction to it, children learn who they are and what they want. Instead of thrashing around in a forest of fear and vulnerability, this knowledge gives them a clearer path on which to travel. Especially in trying times.

Lucia Capacchione, among many others (Kathleen Adams and Julia Cameron are just a couple), calls the journal a friend. It serves as a non-judgmental confidant during difficulty. It is always available day or night and listens to anything and all you have to say. For a child who may be feeling unnoticed and unimportant in an adult world, this is so vital to their sense of self-worth.

According to Luciano L’Abate journaling also helps develop coping and problem-solving skills and promote self-growth. As an adjunct to therapy, journaling has been found to enhance, prepare for, and clarify talk therapy and allow the client to obtain a better understanding of his own beliefs and of personal behaviors. Writing “I…” in a journal promotes personal responsibility and involvement in the healing process. It has been found through various studies, one in particular by Dr. James Pennebaker, that the actual act of putting an experience or memory into words changes the way the brain processes the information, allowing healing to begin. Dr. Pennebaker recorded statistical differences in the mental/emotional health of students who had written expressively and those who had not.

Introduce your child to a new friend, one who loves and listens unconditionally. Encourage them to express what’s inside – whatever is inside. Together, your child and her journal will navigate the sometimes choppy passage of childhood and adolescence and come out the other side a stronger, more confident and emotionally stable adult.


Capacchione, Lucia. (1982). The Creative Journal for Children: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Counselors. 

Zyromski, B. (2007). Journaling: An underutilized school counseling tool. The Journal of School Counseling, 5, Retrieved from http://www.jsc.montana.edu/articles/v5n9.pdf

Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA is a writing and creativity facilitator, certified instructor through the Center for Journal Therapy, and freelance columnist living in Vermont. Her blog and workshop info can be found at her website, wisdomwithinink.com.