Writing Exercises

Writing Exercises

Download Writing Exercises

To accompany Writing to Clients and Referring Professionals About Psychological Assessment Results: A Handbook of Style and Grammar by J.B. Allyn

Chapter-by-chapter exercises place the effective writing components discussed in each chapter into self-test questions and written exercises. These exercises are grounded in psychological report writing: In the context of a fictional case, they give the reader a chance to practice the writing style and grammar guidelines discussed in each chapter.


A list of joint presentations I have given with Dr. Diane Engelman can be found at

In these presentations, Dr. Engelman and I discuss how we create and use a therapeutic story for any given client and the insight it brings to him or her. Speaking locally, nationally, and internationally about the stories allows us to show others how they might create and use them.

Collaborative Creativity paper »

Definitions & Further Information

On my Home and About pages, I mention three terms that are important in my psychology writing, from both the creative writing and technical writing aspects. Those terms are therapeutic stories, metaphor, and Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment. Below, I define these terms and suggest sources for more information.

  1. Therapeutic Stories

    Stories have long been used in psychological counseling with children (Tharinger et al, 2008). Logically, the first stories written in collaborative and therapeutic assessment (see definition below) were for children. The stories were an extension of the psychological report and intended to explain psychological assessment results to the child without overwhelming him or her. These fables often use animal characters – including a wisdom character – to set up a fictional world that parallels the child’s actual situation and provides both information and support for life change.

    In recent years, therapeutic stories have also been created for adults and teenagers (Engelman & Allyn, 2007). As with child stories, adult metaphorical stories reflect the person’s life and give mental or cognitive health messages. These allegories, however, more often cast the adult as a human character, and the wisdom character represents a person important in her or his life. If the adult is responsive to metaphor (see definition below), a therapeutic story provides another level for understanding the information discovered in the assessment.

    Further information on therapeutic stories:

    • Allyn, J.B. (2012). Chapter 11 in Writing to Clients and Referring Professionals About Psychological Assessment Results: A Handbook of Style and Grammar.
    • Engelman, D.H., and Allyn, J.B. (2007, March). “Collaborative Creativity: Ways in which an Assessor Works with a Writer to Craft Therapeutic Stories.” In symposium, Creative Approaches within Therapeutic Assessment, conducted at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality Assessment, Arlington, VA.
    • Website: National Association for Poetry Therapy.Poetry therapy encompasses therapeutic storytelling, bibliotherapy (the interactive use of literature), journal therapy (the use of life-based reflective writing), the use of film in therapy, and other language-based healing forms.
    • Rosen, S. (Ed. and commentary.) (1991). My Voice Will Go With You: The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson. New York, NY: Norton and Company.
    • Tharinger, D. J. et al. (2008). “Providing Psychological Assessment Feedback to Children Through Individualized Fables.” Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 39(6), 610-618.
    • Wallas, L. (1985). Stories for the Third Ear: Using Hypnotic Fables in Psychotherapy. NY and London: Norton and Company
  2. Metaphor: Why It Speaks to Us – or Not

    American writer Orson Scott Card said, “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.” They can lend power and meaning to writing if carefully chosen. Metaphor gives an implied comparison without using like or as: “The road is a ribbon of moonlight.” Outside its literary use, research has shown metaphor’s place in everyday life (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). For example, the phrase “She attacked all the points he made” is an everyday, conceptual metaphor that frames argument as war.

    Not everyone grasps metaphor equally. Studies have pinpointed parts of the brain involved when a person understands metaphor (Sapolsky, 2010; UC San Diego, 2005). For those who respond to metaphor, both conceptual and literary metaphors can help them make deeper connections within the information presented. Both types of metaphor play a part in the therapeutic stories discussed in the previous section.

    Further information on metaphor:

    • Burns, G.W. (2001). 101 Healing Stories: Using Metaphors in Therapy. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
    • Kopp, R.R. (1995). Metaphor Therapy: Using Client-Generated Metaphors in Psychotherapy. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel
    • Kovesces, Z. (2002). Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    • Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
    • Sapolsky, R. (2010, November 14). “This is Your Brain on Metaphors.” New York Times.
    • University of California – San Diego. (2005, May 27). “Grasping Metaphors: UC San Diego Research Ties Brain Area to Figures of Speech.” Science Daily.
  3. Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment

    In traditional psychological assessment, an assessor carefully collects data from and about a client and then compares it to established standards. This “expert” model allows the assessor to diagnose and recommend treatment, but the client’s participation is often limited to taking tests.

    Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment (C/TA) is a subset of traditional psychological assessment that encourages the client to be more directly involved in the assessment process. It combines two related approaches:

    • Collaborative Assessment (CA) was developed by Constance T. Fischer of Duquesne University. CA involves the client as a partner at each step of the assessment. The client is encouraged to tap into self-knowledge, to trust it, and to communicate it to the assessor as a part of the process. This approach aims to humanize the experience and make it more understandable for the client (Fischer, 1994).
    • Therapeutic Assessment (TA) is the semi-structured approach developed by Stephen E. Finn and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin. Finn has referred to TA as mainly an attitude about psychological assessment (2007). This attitude moves the goal beyond collecting data to use in understanding the client and toward creating the positive change he or she seeks in life.

    In combination, Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment encourages the client to work as a team with the assessor throughout the assessment process. The therapeutic stories mentioned above evolved as a valuable tool in C/TA.

    Further information on C/TA and collaborative approaches in mental health care:

    • Finn, S.E., Fischer, C.T., & Handler, L. (Eds.), Collaborative/TherapeuticAssessment: A Casebook and Guide. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
    • Finn, S.E. (2007). In Our Clients’ Shoes: Theory and Techniques of Therapeutic Assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
    • Fischer, C. T. (1994). Individualizing Psychological Assessment: A Collaborative and Therapeutic Approach. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum

    • Websites:
    • (Diane H. Engelman, PhD) Educational information on psychological and neuropsychological assessment, Collaborative/Therapeutic Assessment, targeted assessment, and assessment-informed psychotherapy.
    • (Stephen E. Finn, PhD). Therapeutic Assessment: Overview and literature.