About JB Allyn

Biographical Basics

I have a passion for words – well chosen, crisp, and sometimes lyrical. I have written all my life, although a valuable detour took me into the worlds of acting, teaching, and speaking, where words also play important roles.

I earned my B.A. in English and drama from Sonoma State University, feeling the pull of words in both English literature and the world’s great plays. But the spoken words of drama took precedence, and I focused on acting for nearly two decades. At the same time, I used my business sense in managing arts organizations.

After graduating from Pepperdine University with a Master of Business Administration degree,

  • I worked with corporations to create training and communications programs.
  • I wrote speeches for others, gave many myself, and coached people on speaking effectively to groups, large and small.
  • I developed and taught classes in UCLA’s extension program. I taught scientists and engineers effective communication skills, environmental risk communication, and conflict resolution and negotiation.
  • As my focus shifted to the written word, I tutored adults in English grammar and literature and in the craft of effective writing.

In January 2012, Routledge Mental Health published my book on writing effective psychological reports, Writing to Clients and Referring Professionals About Psychological Assessment Results: A Handbook of Style and Grammar.

The following month, an edited casebook on Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment was released; in it, I co-authored a chapter with neuropsychologist assessor Dr. Diane H. Engelman. In recent years, Dr. Engelman and I

  • Collaborated on 50 therapeutic stories for her assessment clients.
  • Co-wrote an article on dealing with the health care system.
  • Co-authored (with 4 colleagues) a professional journal article of a Therapeutic Assessment case study.

I also completed a novel, not yet published. At present, I continue to write therapeutic stories, nonfiction, and fiction. I am a member of the Society for Personality Assessment, the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, and the Therapeutic Assessment Institute.

Psychology Writing and Science: About Data and Process

The psychological writing and editing I do are grounded in facts and the science of psychology; as such, they can be considered technical writing/editing. Technical writing, however, need not be dense and hard to read. At its best, it captures complex scientific concepts or terms in everyday language. As a technical writer, I strive to eliminate jargon and to express complex ideas with action words instead of vague constructs.

In my book on effective psychological report writing, I approach the subjects of grammar and writing style in the same way. English grammar, in particular, uses many terms that qualify as jargon to people who do not teach English – and even to some who do. I try to avoid those terms, when possible, by describing what they do rather than what they are named.

A clean and clear approach to both the data of psychology and the process of writing creates a document that multiple audiences will understand. The result is clear communication.

Psychology Writing and Creativity: About Therapeutic Stories

As a science, can psychological writing be creative? I believe so, because the writer combines original thought with the information communicated. However, in speaking of creativity, perhaps this quality appears most directly in psychology when it uses stories to communicate. In this case, creativity serves the science:

  • Psychotherapy has long used metaphorical stories to help the client better understand a situation or concept. See the works of Erickson and Wallas, among others.
  • In the psychological field of Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment (C/TA), metaphorical, therapeutic stories combine details of the client’s life with technical findings from the assessment.
  • Clients who are sensitive to metaphor grasp assessment findings differently in this creative, story form, which provides them another level of understanding.

Therapeutic stories in C/TA are used most often with children. However, in the creative writing I do with Dr. Engelman, we specialize in stories for adults and adolescents. Inside each of us is the child who responded to stories and, as one client said, “Who wouldn’t want their own story?”


Writing these stories led to speaking about them at national and international conferences. These presentations allow us to show others how they might create and use therapeutic stories. Within the context of any given case, Dr. Engelman and I discuss

  • How we create the story,
  • How it addresses the client’s situation, and
  • How it provides insight for that person.

Coming full circle to my background as an actor, we use a unique structure for our presentations. Instead of straight narrative about the person assessed, we often speak in dialogue, as archetypal versions of therapist and client. This interaction gives an audience of psychological professionals a glimpse of the client’s experience. We present an edited version of the story as Story Theatre, in which narrative and stage directions are read along with the dialogue. The written and spoken words that have inspired me all my life come together in these presentations.

In the words of writer Douglas Adams (1952-2001), “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”