Like visual art, miming and dance, writing is an expressive therapy. In writing therapy the act of writing is therapeutic where expressing one’s feelings through writing gradually leads to healing of emotional distress, such as trauma due to experiences like bereavement, abuse, abandonment and addiction.
There are many types of writing therapy, e.g. journaling, letter-writing, poetry, list writing, dream diary writing. And writing can be done with a pen, pencil or computer.
Writing therapy has many important benefits:
- It promotes self-awareness and can lead to self-development.
- It can work with clients in a wide range of settings, one-to-one, in a group, and remotely. Some people, for instance, are uncomfortable in face-to-face settings with a therapist, but since it can be done remotely, their anonymity from the therapist can be established and maintained, as required.
- It allows one to get a bad memory or a difficult feeling ‘off one’s chest’.
- It allows exposure, in a relatively safe way, of distressing experiences and memories, and this in turn can promote better understanding and management of emotional responses.
- It can offer different perspectives to thoughts and experiences, which can provide fresh insights.
- It can connect to, and allow exploration of, one’s subconscious mind.
- It is a mindful activity and thus lowers stress levels and reduces depression.
- It allows one to control the amount being revealed to a therapist at any given time.
- It offers the advantage of recognising and organising thoughts through putting them down on paper.
- The writing need not be ‘polished’; it provides the freedom to write anything, in any way, and to any depth, without aesthetic constraints. ‘Good’ grammar, spelling and handwriting are not required.
- The act of ‘putting pen to paper’ allows the unravelling of complex emotions and thoughts.
- It can allow self-compassionate attitudes and behaviours.
- It can be done at any time and in any space.
- It allows the expression of appreciation and gratitude, as well as the offloading of negative feelings by venting rage or frustration.
- It promotes a gradual change from negative thoughts to a positive life-affirming and empowering state of wellbeing.
Here are four writing therapy exercises:
- Write a thank-you letter to the part of your body that you least like.
- Write a paragraph or a poem to celebrate your presence in the world.
- Write a paragraph that begins: ‘I am happiest when...’
- Write an alphabet list of affirmative words to help you in life’s journey, e.g.
A is for awesome
B is for beautiful
C is for clever
(Note: you need not choose every letter in the alphabet – just the ones that appeal.)