What do I mean by “therapeutic journaling?” Basically, therapeutic journaling is the process of writing down our thoughts, emotions and experiences. Journaling, while being creative and fun, is also therapeutic as it allows people to be reflective, introspective, and intentional about their writing. When upsetting, negative, or traumatic events occur, we often aren’t able to fully process what happened. The simple act of writing about challenging and upsetting events can help make them more manageable. Seeing them on paper allows us to move forward by expressing and letting go of those feelings involved.
Benefits of therapeutic journaling include:
- Helps to improve psychological wellbeing by reducing intrusive thoughts, decreasing the avoidance of negative thoughts, and improves working memory.
- Strengthens the immune system; helps to regulate emotions, physiological responses, and behaviors.
- It’s a useful tool for keeping a record of ideas and concepts you learned in your therapy session.
- Provides opportunity for self-reflection and to consider experiences from an alternative perspective.
- You can repeat yourself as much as you’d like without boring your audience.
- Your journal is available at any time!
There are generally two main misconceptions when it comes to therapeutic journaling. First, the idea that you have to write every day is simply not true. That said, the more you write the better the benefit you receive in the long haul. A second misconception is the thought that you have to be good at writing—also not true! No one is going to judge you on your writing ability because this is your journal. Therapeutic journaling is essentially the opposite of other writing genres, in that it is the process of writing, not necessarily the product, that is what therapeutic journaling is all about.
The following tips might help you get started:
- Create a routine for your journaling habits – pick a specific time each day to write.
- Find somewhere quiet to write where you won’t be disturbed.
- Try journal prompts, such as “List 10 things that make you smile, no matter what” or “Write a letter to someone who has had a positive impact on your life.”
Written by Kelly Clarke LMFT
Sources: DeSalvo, Louise. Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. Beacon Press, 2000.
Thompson, Kate. Therapeutic Journal Writing: an Introduction for Professionals. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011.