The Power of Journaling as a Therapeutic Tool

The Power of Journaling as a Therapeutic Tool - Quick Tips for Therapists

Even the well-seasoned therapist can feel “stuck” with a client who’s overwhelmed, blocked, or shut down. Suggesting expressive writing or drawing (“journaling”), either during or between sessions, can help get the process back on track. Both freewriting (writing whatever comes to mind) and guided journaling (starting with a specific prompt) are beneficial.

Journaling can help to:

  • Engage a therapy-shy or reticent client (especially teen-effective!).
  • Reduce overwhelm by changing abstract thoughts and feelings into concrete words on paper.
  • Bypass defenses and uncover new information.
  • Organize thoughts and feelings to facilitate clear thinking and better decision-making.
  • Increase self-awareness.
  • Release affect in a safe manner.
  • Teach, strengthen, or practice a coping skill.

A supply of paper, pens, and crayons can be kept at hand.  At appropriate times, the clinician might patiently suggest:

  • “Instead of talking more, want to try something a little different?”
  • “There’s so much inside you – how about letting it out on paper?” (Let them write whatever they need until they feel relief.)
  •  “Maybe there’s too much to manage at once. Try listing the 5 main things you’re thinking (or feeling) right now.”
  • “That feeling seems overwhelming. How about showing what it might look like in physical form? Use colors, lines, or whatever you need.”
  •  “I wonder why this comes up so often. How about drawing a pie chart showing what makes up your self-esteem?”
  •  “Between sessions, try writing in your journal just as if you’re talking to me.”
  • “Try practicing your positive thinking by writing a gratitude list each night before bed.”
  • “Instead of self-harm, try putting your pain into words or pictures.”

When reviewing clients’ expressions, instead of interpreting, ask:

  • What was it like for you to do this?
  • What’s the most important part of this for you?
  • What do you notice when you look this over?

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Writing it Out: Journaling as an Adjunct to Therapy is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that discusses why and how to use journal writing as a therapeutic tool.

Journaling II: Directed Exercises in Journaling is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that provides the foundation for journal-writing techniques, including exercises you can use with clients.

Lisa M. Schab, L.C.S.W. is a psychotherapist with a private counseling practice in the Great Chicago, IL area. She has authored seventeen books, including The Anxiety Workbook for Teens and Put Your Worries Here:  A Creative Journal for Teens with Anxiety – the first in a new series of creative, engaging guided journals addressing specific teen issues. She teaches self-help workshops and professional training courses on both anxiety and journaling and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). To learn more about the use of journaling and guided journals as an adjunct to therapy, visit www.lisamschabooks.com. To earn continuing education credits on these topics, find Lisa’s professional training courses at https://www.pdresources.org/.

The Benefits of Journaling and Tips for Getting Started

By

journalingIn today’s busy world, we hear a lot about remembering to slow down, to unplug from technology, and to find ways to de-stress. I, myself, have written about the many benefits of meditation and yoga — not just for adults, but for children as well. There is another method I recommend, and that is the daily practice of journaling.

The very act of writing has been scientifically shown to be a beneficial creative process. By putting pen to paper, you are using the left side of your brain, which is critical and rational. This gives the right side of your brain a chance to access your feelings and intuition without any mental blocks.

Other health benefits of journaling include:

  • Improved immune system
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved lung and liver function


In my experience researching the neuroscience behind stress and relationships, women –especially mothers — tend to repress their feelings of pain and depression in order to focus on the needs of others, such as their children, spouses, relatives. By taking a few minutes each day to write down those feelings, without hesitation or editing, unblocks the reservoir of energy spent in repression and allows women to use that energy for self-discovery and healing.

FOUR TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF JOURNALING

1. Write consistently. Think of journaling as a daily practice that you would incorporate into your routine as you would yoga or running. Aim to write in your journal each day for 20 minutes. The day-to-day expectation of creativity effectively confronts the thoughts and feelings that are keeping us up at night.

2. Consider starting out each day journaling. A 2012 University of Toronto study published in the journal Emotion has shown that people are more optimistic in the morning. Writing first thing in the morning helps give you a fresh perspective and the chance to start the day off with a clear mind.

3. Never self-edit. Write freely, without worrying about spelling or grammar, and without the burden of worrying about what others might think about the words you choose. This journal is for you, and you alone. It might take practice, as we are programmed throughout our lives to write for others, but once you get into the habit of writing freely, you will start to get a clearer picture of what your true feelings are and then be able to work through them.

4. Record it all: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is important to list the happiest moments of your life as well as the lowest moments of your life. This helps give you perspective of the complete picture. In reviewing your journal, you will be able to step back and see the whole story of who you are and how you got to where you are: what defines you, and where you want to go. Further, self-analysis builds self-worth by validating the entirety of your world-view, including your goals and values.

As you continue with your new journaling practice, you will begin to see your life through new eyes: you can now look at and clarify events that have shaped you. This in turn gives you a sense of control and reduces stress. A regular practice of journaling offers you the chance to explore your innermost thoughts and emotions, to know yourself better, and to engage in the most intimate and most important relationship you can ever have: with your true self. As my mother was fond of saying: “To know all, is to forgive all.”

Follow Dr. Gail Gross on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DrGailGross

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/benefits-journaling_b_5588478.html

Related Online Continuing Education (CE/CEU) Courses:

Writing it Out: Journaling as an Adjunct to Therapy is a 2-hour online CE course 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. Closeout Course #20-13 | 2003 | 21 pages | 12 posttest questions | $14 (reg $28)

Journaling II: Directed Exercises in Journaling is a 4-hour online CE 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 #20-13, “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. Closeout Course #40-03 | 2005 | 41 pages | 20 posttest questions | $28 (reg $56)

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists; by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) to offer home study continuing education for NCCs (#5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB #1046, ACE Program); the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625); the Florida Boards of Clinical Social Work, Marriage & Family Therapy, and Mental Health Counseling (#BAP346) and Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); and the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678).

Stressed? Write it Away

by Nicole Meighan

Journaling II: Directed Exercises in JournalingStressed? Instead of gnawing on that pencil, put it to paper to help erase tension and increase self-esteem. Recent research suggests expressive writing can be a therapeutic, constructive way to cope with stress and reduce symptoms of depression. So the next time life feels a bit overwhelming, grab a pencil and follow its lead…

Researchers suggest keeping a daily journal can be a simple way to clear the mind of stress and combat anxiety. Jotting down emotions before a test has shown both and, in one study, even boosted exam performance in students. Expressive writing is also a reflective, meditative activity, which can promote creative expression and positive self-awareness. Plus, recording thoughts can be a private way to solve problems— without having to mind p’s and q’s (or a broken wrist after punching a wall).

Journaling has also been shown to encourage a positive body image and improve self-appreciation among young women. After all, it’s a great way to record awesome accomplishments (no modesty required).

Getting started on the path to writing away stress is easy. Find a favorite journal and a comfortable writing tool— anything from a pencil to that mac-and-cheese colored Crayola— and write off into the sunset. Studies indicate expressive writing might be especially effective leading up to a stressful situation, so start by scheduling regular paper sessions before that next big test (in the classroom or otherwise). Don’t know what to write? Try jotting down some positive affirmations or documenting daily events and feelings. Soon, the only writers’ block will be in the form of a hand cramp.

Source: http://greatist.com/happiness/tip-write-to-relieve-stress/#

Related Online Continuing Education Courses:

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).

Anxiety: Practical Management Techniques

Anxiety: Practical Management Techniques

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Nearly every client who walks through a health professional’s door is experiencing some form of anxiety. Even if they are not seeking treatment for a specific anxiety disorder, they are likely experiencing anxiety as a side effect of other clinical issues. For this reason, a solid knowledge of anxiety management skills should be a basic component of every therapist’s repertoire. Clinicians who can teach practical anxiety management techniques have tools that can be used in nearly all clinical settings and client diagnoses. Anxiety management benefits the clinician as well, helping to maintain energy, focus, and inner peace both during and between sessions.

The purpose of this continuing education course is to offer a collection of ready-to-use anxiety management tools. 2007 | 41 pages | 30 posttest questions | Course #40-12

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  • “I really enjoyed this course. It was a great review of major concepts and provided excellent opportunities to improve and expand best practices.” – Kathleen F. (Social Worker)

CE Credit: 4 Hours (0.4 CEUs)
Target Audience: Psychology Counseling Social-Work Occupational-Therapy Marriage-and-Family
Learning Level: Intermediate
Online Course: $56

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe two natural bodily functions that serve as powerful and basic tools for anxiety management
  2. Distinguish between the use of anxiety management techniques for prevention and intervention
  3. List and define nine basic categories of anxiety management techniques
  4. Identify at least one specific exercise in each of the nine basic categories of anxiety management techniques
  5. Name ten anxiety management techniques that employ cognitive restructuring as their base
  6. Describe two anxiety management techniques that address the specific disorders of phobia and panic attack

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 and is the author of several books and continuing education courses, among them:

Professional Development Resources is recognized as a provider of continuing education by the following:
AOTA: American Occupational Therapy Association (#3159)
APA: American Psychological Association
ASWB: Association of Social Work Boards (#1046)
CDR: Commission on Dietetic Registration (#PR001)
NBCC: National Board for Certified Counselors (#5590)
NAADAC: National Association of Alcohol & Drug Abuse Counselors (#00279)
California: Board of Behavioral Sciences (#PCE1625)
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South Carolina: Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193)
Texas: Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) & State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678)
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