Writing As Therapy

How to cope with the little things that become overwhelming.

Thomas Oppong
May 7 · 5 min read

Writing therapy is the cheapest and easily accessible form of therapy.

People have used writing as a medium for emotional expression for ages.

Directed writing can be your own version of therapy.

The concept of writing as therapy was first introduced by New York psychologist Dr Ira Progoff in the mid-1960s.

“As a practising psychotherapist who had studied under Carl Jung, Progoff developed what he called the Intensive Journal Method, a means of self-exploration and personal expression based on the regular and methodical upkeep of a reflective psychological notebook,” writes Sharon Hinsull of Counselling Directory.

Many people have so many feelings of hurt, stress, envy, anxiety and regret, but they rarely stop, think and make sense of them.

It’s an uncomfortable process, so they would rather spend time in their heads which makes things even more complicated.

Until it’s too late.

According to Psychology Today, painful memories can have long-lasting effects on our mental health.

To truly understand what you feel and think, you need to develop intimacy with yourself.

Your thoughts contain clues as to your needs and longer-term direction.

And writing therapy can offer that escape.

Writing therapy, also known as expressive therapy can help improve your personal growth and mood over time.

Writing as therapy is slightly different from journaling.

When you write in a journal, you focus on recording events as they happen. Journaling is usually free form, where you jot down whatever you want, with little or no guidance.

Writing therapy, on the other hand, is more directed, and based on prompts or exercises. When you use writing as a therapy, you don’t just write your thoughts and feelings down, but you also think deeply about them and analyse the events (past and present).

Therapeutic writing provides the freedom to express yourself without being judged. It’s an opportunity to get everything out so you can see it.

If you worry endlessly about life and living it, can’t sleep because of stress, or have bottled up emotions for a very long time, directed writing is one of the best ways to improve your emotional well-being.

The good news is, you don’t need anyone’s permission to embrace writing therapy. You can start right now.

It’s that easy to get started and help yourself.

“There have been studies in how writing affects the mind and mood for years — in all sorts of settings and forms. Poetry classes, writing in prisons, in hospitals and hospices, writing in addiction centres, bibliotherapy sessions — writing is finally being recognised as creative therapy, alongside dance, drama, crafts and music, writes Joanna Penn.

Many psychologists and mental health therapists encourage clients to use directed writing as part of the healing process.

It’s quick, and one of the best ways to heal emotional pain.

Writing therapy is one of the simplest things you can do to stay sane if you are worried about your mental health.

In his book Ways of Escape, British author Graham Greene writes, “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”

Scientific evidence supports the use of writing to improve mood and even your working memory.

Writing therapy can reduce the level of stress hormones including cortisol in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD in individuals that take time to write about their stress.

“So many people carry their secret stories of shame for years and years in their bodies, not just in their minds,” says Nancy Aronie, the author of “Writing From the Heart.”

You can help yourself today.

You will feel less emotionally burdened if you express yourself without holding back on paper or screen.

Through directed writing, we recognise patterns to observe and opportunities for personal growth above everything that holds us back.

When you use writing as a form of therapy, you can stop and think about the choices you have and why you make them.

You can question false narratives you consistently tell yourself and create better ones. You can reinforce good narratives you already know.

In a study, participants who wrote about their most traumatic experiences for 15 minutes, four days in a row, experienced better health outcomes up to four months later.

In another study to determine if writing about stressful life experiences affects disease status in patients with asthma or rheumatoid arthritis, participants who wrote about the most stressful event of their lives experienced better health evaluations related to their illness.

A simple approach to writing as therapy

Therapeutic writing sounds great but it can be difficult to get started, like any other good habit you want to adopt.

Make it as easy as possible to get started.

Choose your best format. What works best for you.

It can be a simple notebook, an online journal, a or a personal blog.

If you need to speak, not write, use a recorder and speak from your heart.

Make it personal.

Schedule it on your calendar. It’s better to decide ahead of time when and/or where you will write each day.

Set a goal to write at a specific time daily. You can spend as little as 10 minutes a day writing about your emotions and feelings.

Your first entry could be what makes you want to write in the first place.

And then you can focus on where you are in your life at this moment.

If you are still not sure about how to get started, you can can write about what you’re noticing about yourself this week (feelings and reactions to events), What you’re feeling and thinking at the very moment you’re writing, your worries, your blessings, your goals, or your memories.

The main thing is to make it easy to write or you won’t make it a habit.

You’ve got to pace yourself. Keep it simple.

If making it personal is a challenging approach, or an event is difficult to write down, use the third person pronoun.

Learn to listen to yourself throughout the process of writing.

Be honest with your feelings.

The process of writing down your feelings and emotions is more important than the outcome or what you write down.

How you felt when you wrote it is what begins the healing process.

Start your therapeutic writing today.

The next time you face an emotional burden, take some time for therapeutic writing and let it out.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly. It’s an email I send to 30,000+ readers once a month, filled with my best essays, posts about behaviour change, great books, tools I find useful and more. Join us today.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

Thomas Oppong

Written by

Founder at AllTopStartups | Author | Creator of Thinking in Models and Kaizen Habits | Featured at Inc. Magazine, Business Insider, Forbes, Entrepreneur, etc.

Personal Growth

Sharing our ideas and experiences.

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