Journal Writing to Aid the Therapeutic Process

Using journal writing as an aid to the therapeutic process is not an unfamiliar idea. Keeping a journal has been practiced by patients of cognitive therapists in an attempt to help identify and correct negative thought patterns, by Jungians to record dreams, and in the Japanese Morita therapy for the treatment of neurosis; Sigmund Freud professed his belief in the diary as “a key to the psyche” in his preface to Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (Rainer, 1978).

One of the most well-reputed journal therapists is Ira Progoff, a psychotherapist trained in Jungian analysis and depth psychology, who developed the concept of “The Intensive Journal,” a complete, specific journaling format to be used in working toward the goal of bringing depth to the inner self (Progoff, 1992).

In 1990, James W. Pennebaker, professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, published “Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others.” Pennebaker describes carefully controlled experiments and ten years of scientific research that caused him to conclude, “writing can be an avenue to that interior place where . . . we can confront traumas and put them to rest – and heal both body and mind.”

Dr. Edward J. Murray (1991), professor of psychology at the University Miami, claimed that although he initially questioned Pennebaker’s findings, his own later findings proved that “writing seems to produce as much therapeutic benefit as sessions with a psychotherapist.”

Learn more:

Writing it Out: Journaling as an Adjunct to Therapy

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Writing it Out: Journaling as an Adjunct to Therapy is a 2-hour online continuing education course that provides a brief monograph on the use of journal writing as an aid to the therapeutic process. While most psychotherapy is conducted through traditional “talking therapy,” having a client express himself through the written word offers another way to let him vent his thoughts and feelings, and to gain information about his internal and external experiences of life. This course includes descriptions of the various uses of journaling as well as detail on seven journal-writing techniques. 2003 | 21 pages | 12 posttest questions | Course #20-13

Writing in a journal can be an effective aid to traditional psychotherapy. It allows clients to vent and explore their personal thoughts and feelings even when the therapist is not available. The process of writing helps to bring obscure or overwhelming abstract concepts into concrete form, thereby making them more manageable and empowering the writer. Writing can act as a soothing behavior, a safe place to express affect, and a vehicle for tapping unconscious material, fostering the development of self-awareness. When used in a more structured form, such as a behavior log, writing can help to interrupt unwanted behaviors and provide insight into behavior patterns.

Journaling II: Directed Exercises in Journaling

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Journaling II: Directed Exercises in Journaling is the follow-up course to Writing it Out. This is a 4-hour continuing education course designed for the practitioner who would like to use journal-writing exercises with clients as an adjunct to traditional psychotherapy, and would like some topic ideas to suggest, rather than limiting writing only to the technique of “freewriting.” It is suggested, although not mandatory, that the practitioner has already completed the course, “Writing It Out: Journaling as an Adjunct to Therapy.” That course lays the basic foundation for understanding the benefits of journaling and how it can best be used with clients. It also teaches a number of basic writing techniques. Journaling II presents a brief overview of “freewriting,” as well as 36 directed exercises divided into three phases. It also offers interpretive questions coordinating with each exercise and an explanation of the use of a behavior log as a journaling exercise. 2005 | 41 pages | 20 posttest questions | Course #40-03

About the Author:

Lisa M. Schab, MSW, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Libertyville, Illinois. A graduate of Loyola University School of Social Work, Ms. Schab has specialized in anxiety and depression, blended families, and the treatment and prevention of eating problems and disorders. She has presented a number of professional training seminars on the use of journaling and is the author of several books, among them Writing it Out: Self Awareness and Self-Help through Journaling (Wainsley Press, 1996).