How to Use Writing as a Tool for Self-Therapy

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Writing as a Self-Therapy Technique

When you are feeling down, depressed, and out of energy, remember – you are not alone. Such a state is familiar to every person, especially to those trying to do something meaningful with their lives. We cannot avoid stress, frustration, and other negative scenarios at work or college, with your family members, beloved ones, etc. The question is: how to get back to the sunny side? Some people decide to visit a therapist in such cases. The others travel, dive into their hobbies, or simply switch off from their busy lives to have a break. Creative people opt for art.

Numerous artistic activities can lead one to emotional healing and spiritual growth. Whether you prefer drawing, dancing, playing music, or anything else – all of them are equally great and efficient. Among all the methods, writing is special, since it gives you a chance to reflect on your perception of reality and dig into your soul. Even if you are not a writer, you can still benefit from this activity.

Self-exploration can help you get rid of numerous negative feelings, like regret, fault, stress, envy, and more. You can release them, stop for a while, think, and make sense of everything that you have to experience. It is much better than spending time in your head and twirling the same hurtful thoughts over and over again, making things even more complicated. Let’s discuss this beneficial practice in more details to help you include it in your daily routine and live a happier life.


What’s the difference between a personal diary and writing therapy?

While writing therapy and writing a diary are pretty similar, there are some significant differences. As a rule, a diary is:

• A form of free writing, when you put everything that comes to your mind on paper;
• Records about your daily life and reproduction of the events;
• Personal writing you rarely show to anyone else.

At the same time, writing therapy can be characterized as:

• Not free, but rather directed writing based on particular exercises that evoke needed effects and provoke the right questions/thoughts in the author;
• Reflection on your daily routine, your thoughts, analysis, and conclusions;
• Notes you should show to your therapist.

As you can see, diary is about describing your experience, while writing therapy takes you to another level – it is a self-analysis and reflection on that experience. We will discover more peculiarities of writing therapy below, so stay tuned!


Why do you need writing therapy?

While diary notes are great for relaxation, writing therapy is widely-used by therapists to help people outlive traumatic experience. Meaningful and expressive writing encourages patients to find a different perspective on the events, discover sense in their experience, and get insights about themselves and people around. This is a powerful tool that evokes new ideas and helps you get out of the dead end when you are feeling stuck. Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other disorders have reasons – these are traumas we had to experience throughout our lives. Without reflecting on traumas and “rewriting” our vision of them, we suffer from mental pain and repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

How to start writing therapy? 

If you are planning to start writing therapy with your mental health supervisor, he/she will direct you and help you start the session. If you want to start on your own, then here are some useful tips to consider:

• Pick the format

You are the one to decide which format is the most comfortable for you. Choose the medium first. Would you like to write in the Word document, online blog, or a paper notebook? How much time do you want to devote to the writing practice? What evokes your desire to write? Start your writing with answering the last question.

• Don’t worry about the themes to reflect on

Everything can become your subject of writing. You can write about your most memorable childhood event or fear, as well as about the crow you have seen out of a window. The trick is to stay thoughtful and give full attention to the practice.

• Don’t push yourself

If you have no inspiration to write more than a few words a day, it’s fine. Just do it in your own pace and don’t try to squeeze three pages when you have just one sentence to say.

• Write for yourself

Even though you might be planning to show your writing to a therapist, try to write as if nobody will read it. Avoid showing yourself in the best light and try to be honest and authentic.

• Don’t try to write like a pro

The quality of your writing is not very important now. The aim is to express things that make sense and come naturally to you.

If you have a writing block or just cannot start – make sure to use the simple prompts listed below. They will help you get to work.


Prompts for writing therapy 

These prompts can help you get started or continue your therapy once you are feeling stuck:

• Write a poem

Rhymes can make your creative juices flow! Try writing about your day in a form of a poem – whether humorous, symbolic, or romantic.

• Write a letter

This might be a letter to yourself as a child or a letter to any other person, be it your friend, someone from your past, yourmother, or even a celebrity.

• Write everything that comes to your mind

Free writing is a great technique to help you “unstuck”. The ideas might come to you in the process.

• Writing about the photo

Pick a photo (from your personal album or use the Internet) and think about people and events depicted there. What would you like to tell them? Do you have questions to these people? What do you feel when looking at the picture?

• Create a list

This might be a list of anything: things that make you sad, reasons to wake up in the morning, things you love, things you want others to know about you, etc.

• Create a mind map

Write the main question or problem that bothers you in the middle of the page. Draw lines that will represent the details, reasons, and/or outcomes.

Whatever you write about, try to listen to yourself. It is important to track your feelings and emotions, not spelling or grammar. When devoting your time to writing therapy, focus on the content and forget about the form. Hopefully, this practice will become your source of insights, valuable experience, and self-awareness. Keep these tips in mind and happy writing!


About the author 

Lina Jones is a blogger for passionate about psychology and self-awareness practices. She finds art therapy and gestalt psychology efficient and especially interesting. Currently, Lina visits art therapy sessions herself and plans to share her experience in the series of blog posts.

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