What is Writing Therapy?
Writing therapy is writing for therapeutic benefits by unpacking and analyzing thoughts and feelings. It can be done individually, practiced in a group where discussion of the writing is involved, or led by a mental health professional. The goal of writing therapy is for an individual to creatively express their feelings, experience personal growth, and feel control over their life.
The benefits of writing therapy may be obvious; having a secure place to express your deepest thoughts and feelings. Many advocates of journaling preach about the benefits of spending just a few minutes jotting down whatever is in your head. However, there’s much more that goes into writing therapy than just this.
How is Writing Therapy Different from Journaling?
Journaling or writing in a diary is usually freeform, where the writer scribbles down the thoughts in their head. Therapeutic writing is much more targeted, often answering a specific prompt a professional gives. Journaling also often focuses on day-to-day events, whereas therapeutic writing concentrates on analyzing the events, thoughts, and feelings the writer has experienced. Finally, keeping a journal is an individual act, while a mental health professional often guides therapeutic writing (Farooqui, 2016).
What are the Health Benefits of Writing Therapy?
Keeping a diary or journal can be very helpful, whether it’s for documenting events, or just for venting after a tough day. While this is beneficial, writing therapy goes much deeper than just writing in a diary. For people who have experienced traumatic events, participating in targeted and guided writing on these topics can have a remedial effect.
Writing therapy has proven to be beneficial for individuals with anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, grief, chronic illness issues, eating disorders, interpersonal relationship issues, communication skill issues, and low self-esteem (Farooqui, 2016).
How do you do Writing Therapy?
There are several ways to begin writing therapy. Although true writing therapy is done with the guidenced of a mental health professional, there are methods to individually practice writing for your wellbeing.
The Center for Journaling Therapy suggests that you should follow these five steps (Adams, n.d.):
- W- What do you want to write about? Name and describe it.
- R- Reflect on your chosen topic.
- I- Investigate your feelings and thoughts. Start writing.
- T- Time yourself. Write for between 5-15 minutes straight.
- E- Exit. Re-read what you’ve written and sum it up in one to two sentences.
The center also provides eight suggestions for new practitioners of journal therapy.
- Protect your privacy- Store your journal somewhere safe to ensure thoughts you want to remain private, stay private.
- Start with an entrance meditation- Spend a few minutes quietly focusing on what you want to write about before you write it
- Date every entry- Dating your entries allows you to reflect on your journal by date.
- Re-read what you write- Keep your journal entries and reread them later to see how you feel about what you wrote in the past
- Write quickly- Writing fast keeps you from experiencing writer’s block.
- Start writing and keep writing- Once you’ve started writing, don’t go back to edit or rewrite anything. Try not to think too much.
- Be truthful with yourself- Don’t try and talk yourself out of how you feel. Give yourself permission to write about how you honestly feel.
- Write naturally- Do what works for you and let yourself enjoy the process!
So if you’re feeling up to it, try writing therapy out! It has the potential to be enormously beneficial to mental health.