Writing Therapy

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Do you write for therapy? Also known as Journal Therapy, Writing Therapy is the act of writing down thoughts and feelings to either come to a deeper understanding of self, or of the world, or just to provide a kind of healing to the stresses of abuse, insecurities, or everyday situations. It is a form of therapy that I am not sure that everyone who participates is even conscious of. Do writers who write recognize a form of healing from the process? Perhaps that is something we may explore in great depth at a later time. “What drives you to write? What makes you write? What kind of stain does having written a piece leave on you?” These are questions you may feel free to respond to at your own leisure; it will be interesting to see what our answers are to these questions.

In the meantime, below is an excerpt from a piece on Journal Therapy that may be of assistance in the exploration of this topic. This article first appeared in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mind-Body Medicine, The Rosen Group, accessed from http://www.journaltherapy.com. ©1999 Kathleen Adams. I hope it is of help to you in your writing endeavors. Enjoy 🙂

The Philosophy of Journal Therapy

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In the 1980s many public school systems began formally using journals in English classes and across the curricula as well. These journals, often called “dialogue” or “response” journals, offered a way for students to develop independent thinking skills and gave teachers a method for responding directly to students with individual feedback. Although the intention for classroom journals was educational rather than therapeutic, teachers noticed that a simple assignment to reflect on an academic question or problem often revealed important information about the student’s emotional life. Students often reported feeling a relief of pressure and tension when they could write down troubling events or confusing thoughts or feelings.

Journal Therapy in Practice

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Although there are many psychotherapists who incorporate journal therapy into their sessions by assigning written “homework,” there are relatively few who specialize in journal therapy. Therapists who utilize journal writing in a session often begin by asking the client to write a short “check-in” paragraph or two on “what’s going on” — how the client is feeling, what s/he wants to work on in the session, and what’s happening in her/his life that impacts the therapeutic work at hand. This writing is usually shared with the therapist, and an “agenda” for the session is set. The therapist then guides the client through a writing exercise designed to address the therapeutic issues or tasks that the client has brought forward in the check-in or warm-up write. This writing usually takes about 10 minutes, and the remainder of the session is spent with the client and therapist exploring the information revealed in the longer write. The session generally concludes with the therapist offering several suggestions for journal “homework” to be completed between sessions. Journal therapy is also very effective in groups, and it is common for group members to establish a sense of deep community as writings representing authentic expressions of self are shared.

Benefits of Journal Therapy

It is believed that by recording and describing the salient issues in one’s life, one can better understand these issues and eventually diagnose problems that stem from them. Journal therapy has been used effectively for grief and loss; coping with life-threatening or chronic illness; recovery from addictions, eating disorders and trauma; repairing troubled marriages and family relationships; increasing communication skills; developing healthier self-esteem; getting a better perspective on life; and clarifying life goals.

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