Writing Therapy


All of us write — some more than others. We write our names on documents. We send texts messages to our loved ones. We send work-related emails to our colleagues. Some of us write professionally or as a hobby. What if writing could be therapeutic?

Much like art therapy, writing therapy can be used to allow clients to open up to themselves and to others. When a client puts pen to paper or types out thoughts, feelings and emotions, he or she may be able to better address issues that plague him or her. Thus, this will enable a client to know sources of issues and work toward solutions with a licensed mental health professional.

Mental health practitioners can use writing as a form in therapy in a variety of ways including journals, logs, questionnaires and so on. While writing about negative emotions can cause stress in clients, it can also help them get past traumatic experiences and improve mental and physical health. Practitioners focus on telling clients to write about their emotions, as was as more focused thoughts.

For example, if a client went through a very difficult breakup with her abusive ex-boyfriend, then writing could help her forgive herself. She is feeling guilty for certain behaviours during the course of their relationship. Writing about her feelings could help her confront them and better communicate them to someone who can help her. Another example could be that another client is struggling with the loss of his child. He seems to relive the seven stages of grief over and over. Writing in a journal could help him record his feelings, positive and negative, about the experience.

While writing therapy may not work for everyone, studies indicate that writing on a long-term basis helps clients figure out their behavioural patterns and what they can change or keep the same. Kathleen Adams, founder of the Centre for Journal Therapy in Colorado, uses the 79 Cent Therapy approach. She writes key details of her life and everyday happenings and stressors in cheap spiral notebooks. She says this about using writing as therapy: “For nearly 30 years, I’ve had the same therapist. I’ve called on my therapist at 3 a.m., on my wedding day, on a cold and lonely Christmas, on a Bora Bora beach, and in the dentist’s reception room. I can tell this therapist absolutely anything. My therapist listens silently to my most sinister darkness, my most bizarre fantasy, my most cherished dream. And I can scream, whimper, thrash, rage, exult, foam, celebrate. I can be funny, snide, introspective, accusatory, sarcastic, helpless, brilliant, sentimental, profound, caustic, inspirational, opinionated or vulgar. My therapist accepts all of this without comment, judgement, or reprisal.”

Writing is an inexpensive way to unleash your thoughts. Even writing for 15 minutes per day can help clients sort out their thoughts and emotions. Talk with your mental health practitioner or someone online at BetterHelp to sort through your thoughts and emotions and see if writing therapy is a right fit for you.