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What exactly is writing therapy?

Updated: Jul 22, 2022

Good question!

Therapeutic writing can include journalling, list-making, letter-writing.... the possibilities are limitless but all involve making a mark on the page in some way.

Some clients like to use reflective or express writing to explore a situation or issue in their life, whereas others like to write creatively about whatever has brought them to counselling.

How does therapeutic writing work within counselling sessions?

Whether I'm working face-to-face or online with a client, therapeutic writing may form part of the session and/or be done by clients at home between sessions.

The client may write for most of the session, part of it, or not at all. In some sessions, the client may choose to explore an issue through talking, whereas in other sessions they may decide to write.

In practice, most sessions tend to be a mixture of the client talking and writing.

How might writing at home between sessions be helpful?

Writing at home - perhaps in the form of keeping a journal - can be a helpful addition to the actual counselling session by providing a chance for the client to reflect on what has been explored, as well as what they might like to bring to the next session. In this way, journalling (and other forms of writing) can form a 'bridge' between sessions.

Do I need to be able to write well?

Absolutely not (whatever 'write well' means to you)!

Therapeutic writing is not about the craft of writing or producing perfect prose and I strongly encourage clients to view their writing as 'process' rather than 'product'.

I will never get tired of saying that, in therapeutic writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation do not matter.

Will I be expected to share my writing in sessions?

Never, (although the client is always welcome in a session to share part or all of something they've written).

It's important to add that my suggestions in therapeutic writing are only ever invitations. Clients are never expected to write about something that feels too difficult or uncomfortable and are always free to not follow a suggestion.

As an experienced therapist, I am able to support the client as they use writing to explore whatever they feel free ready to look at.

How do we know therapeutic writing even works?

There is an increasing amount of evidence that therapeutic writing is a very effective way to explore, and often resolve, challenging issues and situations.

Some of the most well-known research was carried out by Dr James Pennebaker who carried out studies demonstrating the benefits of writing about traumatic events.

My personal writing practice, as well as my studies (MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes), have shown me that therapeutic writing can be very beneficial in a wide range of contexts.

How do I find out more?

Get in touch if you would like to find out more about how therapeutic writing could benefit your life.


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