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Healing through writing therapy: A guide to therapeutic expression

 A woman expressing her emotion with writing therapy

In life, facing challenges is unfortunately inevitable. One powerful tool for navigating these challenges is writing therapy, a form of expressive therapy using written words for processing emotions and healing. Whether practiced alone or with guidance, it offers various techniques like journaling and expressive writing, known for both physical and psychological benefits.

Healing through words

Words possess a profound impact on our well-being. Through poetry, prose, and life writing, many embark on journeys of self-reflection, acceptance, and growth. Writing becomes a safe space, fostering emotional healing and a sense of connection.

Research indicates that writing can help us work through thoughts and emotions, regulate feelings, and even boost physical well-being. It can be a valuable tool for coping with challenges and promoting overall well-being.

For me, writing has been transformative, guiding me through self-exploration and healing. I’ve learnt how to explore my innermost thoughts, make sense of emotion and process experiences, ultimately embarking on a path of healing and self-discovery. It's become a trusted companion in my daily life.

Understanding Writing Therapy

What is writing therapy?

Therapeutic writing is an expressive form that uses writing for therapeutic purposes. It's accessible to everyone, offering a personal journey of self-help. This versatile therapy, rooted in the idea that writing about emotional experiences aids stress reduction, comes in various forms like free writing, journal entries, or guided prompts. Writing therapy can be conducted alone, individually with a therapist, or in a group setting.

An activity rooted in psychological well-being

Writing promotes psychological well-being, offering therapeutic effects on distress and nurturing personal strengths such as resilience. It's versatile, effective as a standalone treatment or complementing other forms of therapy.

The therapeutic benefits of putting thoughts into words

Writing down your thoughts and feelings will allow you to explore your emotions in a confidential and non-judgmental manner. The positive effects of therapeutic writing include:

  1. Improved mental well-being: Writing can help you stop ruminating about a distressing event, providing a way to leave your thoughts on the page and achieve closure, and also reduce repetitive thinking.

  2. Traumatic memory processing: Writing therapy may facilitate how you process traumatic memories cognitively, resulting in more adaptive and integrated representations of yourself and others.

  3. Physical health: In addition to its psychological benefits, writing therapy has been associated with physical health benefits: improved immune function, reduced stress, decreased depression symptoms, lower blood pressure, and improved liver function.

  4. Complementary Treatment: Writing can serve as a complement to other therapeutic treatments.

  5. Accessible & cost effective: Writing as a therapy is easily accessible and once in hand, an extremely cost effective tool.

Writing has been my unconscious emotional release for years. As a teenager, I journaled but didn't grasp its benefits fully. I lacked guidance on understanding beyond the surface of my day. Younger, I filled books with poetry, and as I grew older, I shared musings on Instagram through quotes & inspirational descriptions. Professionally, as a marketer, written content is integral to my daily life. Today, I sometimes brain dump into a notes app, and other times, I shape my thoughts into words for others to relate to.

Getting Started with Writing Therapy

The most important step is to figure out what works for you. But here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Set aside 15 minutes, three to four times a week.

  2. Create a space where you can open your mind and think clearly. You may need quiet or comfort, or to be in the middle of a restaurant during lunch hour.

  3. Try different formats such as writing by hand, typing, or using voice memos, journalling, notes or your own blog.

  4. Choose a writing prompt or topic to guide your writing and remember to write freely. That is to say, without judging yourself.

  5. Try different writing exercises, such as writing about positive and negative events, setting goals, or listing things you love, to see what works best for you.

  6. Let the words flow without worrying about your grammar, punctuation, or spelling.

  7. Establish a writing goal in an aim to maintain consistency. This could be daily, weekly, a set number of minutes or even a set number of days in a row.

  8. If it’s possible, guidance from a mental health professional can help ensure that the writing process is supportive and tailored to your needs.

You can’t always decide exactly when you need to write something down. I keep a notebook or an notes app handy to jot things down as they come to mind.

Writing Therapy Prompts

A great way to start is by using a prompt to encourage self-reflection and exploration:

  1. "My favorite way to spend the day is…"

  2. "If I could talk to my teenage self, the one thing I would say is…"

  3. "Make a list of 30 things that make you smile."

  4. "The words I'd like to live by are…"

  5. "I really wish others knew this about me."

  6. “What difficult thoughts or emotions come up most frequently for you?”

  7. “How did it make you feel when…”

Overcoming challenges as you write

Expressing feelings may be challenging initially, but remember, it's okay to start small and at your own pace - no pressure! This is a moment for you with yourself.

Strategies for overcoming writer's block, self-doubt, or emotional barriers

  1. Seek inspiration: Draw inspiration from authors or creative writers.

  2. Identify barriers: Address fear, self-doubt, or perfectionism.

  3. Change your routine: Stimulate creativity with a different writing environment.

  4. Embrace progress: Focus on progress, not perfection.

  5. Create an outline: Provide clarity by outlining your thoughts.

  6. Take a stroll: Walking stimulates better thinking.

  7. Brain dump: Release thoughts digitally, vocally, or on paper.

  8. Embrace rest: If a piece isn't ready, allow for a moment of rest.

Embarking on a transformative journey with writing therapy

Evidence supports the therapeutic benefits of writing, making it a valuable tool for anyone who’d like to improve their well-being, promote self-discovery or cope better personal challenges.

Writing is easily accessible and versatile and with various techniques available, it’s possible tailor the process to your needs. All that’s left to do is pick up a pen and get started!


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