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Writing Therapy: Tips, Benefits, and Prompts

Writing Therapy Alleviates Emotional Pain and Promotes Healthy Self-Expression—

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental disorder or neurological issue at some point in their lives.  This statistic is staggering, particularly when you consider how difficult it is for many people to find treatment and appropriate resources for their illnesses.

Writing Tips and Prompts for Writing Therapy

Traditional means of treating mental health issues such as therapy and appropriate medications should always be considered.  However, many people also find alternative forms of therapy to be beneficial, particularly when practiced alongside other traditional treatment options.

For patients who are open to exploring their own thoughts and emotions, writing therapy can be a valuable and healing tool.  Read on to learn more about the benefits and process involved in this therapeutic process.

What is Writing Therapy?

Writing therapy is fairly self-explanatory—it’s a form of personal writing that focuses on specific emotional issues and experiences in order to process them.

This therapy process is unique in that you can do it all on your own and it does not have to cost anything—you just need a pen and paper!  Many people also practice writing therapy that is guided by a professional, and in some cases, it may be a supplement to general talk therapy.

In general, writing therapy tends to be more guided and focused than keeping a personal journal.  You may wish to follow writing prompts, and as you write, you should keep your attention focused on the specific events you’re recalling and your analysis of them.  It’s important to really interact with the thoughts and ideas you’re writing about in order to make forward progress.

How Do People Benefit from Therapeutic Writing?

People who practice writing therapy often find power and healing by seeing the experiences they write about from a fresh perspective. 

Analyzing an event from your past through writing may allow you to reach new insights and to see it in a different way than you would have if you simply recalled it.  When you write about the event, you have the opportunity to dig in and engage with it a little more deeply.

When you use writing therapy prompts, you may also find that the guided questions encourage you to ask things of yourself that you otherwise were unwilling or unable to face.  This aspect of the writing process can bring about a much better sense of self-awareness, and in some cases, even closure.

Researchers have found writing therapy to be effective in treating people with conditions such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress—as well as people who struggle with problems like chronic illness, substance abuse, grief, and eating disorders. You can read about 83 writing therapy benefits on Positive Psychology.

Top Writing for Therapy Tips

It never hurts to try writing therapy on your own, which means there is no barrier to getting started!  However, you should consult with a mental health professional before utilizing it as your only form of treatment (particularly if you have a more severe or lasting condition or illness).

Here are a few tips to help you begin writing therapy:

1. Time
Set aside a designated time when you won’t be interrupted to complete your writing.  Treat this time just as you would any other appointment and make sure that you will have the time you need to yourself to truly focus.

2. Theme
Choose a few key topics or ideas you’d like to explore in your early writing therapy sessions before you begin.  This will help you stay focused and will guide your writing if you’re not sure where to start.  You can also use prompts (like the ones below) to guide your process.

3. Flexibility
Be flexible with yourself and don’t have too many expectations for your writing.  Your writing quality is not as important as the ideas you express.  Similarly, you don’t need to write any certain amount.  The key is simply to sit, reflect, and write during your allotted writing therapy time. 

4. Medium
Use a trusted medium for your writing therapy that only you (and perhaps your therapist, if you’re interested in sharing) can access.  Then, write as though you are your only audience and try not to hold anything back.

10 Writing Therapy Prompts to Help You Begin Your Healing Process

Therapeutic writing can be a tough and emotionally draining process, but its benefits are truly immeasurable.  Use the following writing therapy prompts to begin your healing process and see how well this reflective tool works for you.

  1. Write a letter (that you don’t have to send) to someone you’ve had problems with in the past.  Express everything you’ve wanted to say.
  2. What is your first instinct when a conflict arises?  Do you think this is a healthy way of handling the problem?  Why or why not?
  3. Write about a time when you felt lonely—and how you coped with those feelings.
  4. Write an ode to yourself.  Highlight all the things you love and treasure about yourself and describe several qualities that set you apart from other people.
  5. What is your self-care routine like?  Are you good at adhering to it regularly?  How could you improve upon it?
    Writing Therapy Prompts and Ideas
  6. Take a few minutes to lie still and take a mental inventory of how your body feels.  Then, write about the places where you’re holding tension and the various sensations you noticed.
  7. What motivates you to achieve your goals in life?  Are these healthy factors?  Why or why not?
  8. Write about something you would love to do if you weren’t so afraid to do it.  Then, examine how these fears are holding you back—and if there are any potential ways you could overcome them.
  9. What negative beliefs about yourself are you holding onto?  How can you begin to let some of them go?
  10. What are you struggling with right now?  Is there anything you could do to eliminate one or more of these challenges?  Is it possible to reach out for help?

Until next time, journal on…

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Therapy Writing Tips and Ideas
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