Journaling is a good habit that can help you organize your thoughts, establish a routine, brainstorm, and express yourself creatively. Stream-of-consciousness journaling is an expressive form of the same. As the name suggests, it involves letting your consciousness flow and writing down whatever comes to mind. But is a similar activity practiced in clinical settings?
Surprisingly, yes. Expressive writing therapy is a way to explore and express your emotions through writing used with traditional therapeutic practices.
What Is Expressive Writing Therapy?
Putting things to paper produces an intense and distinct feeling. According to an article by James W.B. published in The Independent Practitioner, 2010, this exercise is repeated three times for a minimum of 15 minutes. During these 15 minutes, the patient is asked not to care about spelling or grammatical correction and note down what comes to mind. Patients can repeat what they wrote down earlier if nothing new comes to mind.
Focused Expressive Writing(FEW) is low-cost, portable, and holds potential as a self-help practice. According to a research article by Joshua.S., it may be an effective means to reach people who lack access or are unwilling to opt for therapy.
A patient’s writing is for them alone. It is a process of self-discovery or processing past(the most traumatic and unsettling) events. It is not to be shared with the therapist or a group for the best results. Usually, the patient takes back their writing or destroys it. While there is no preferred time duration between writing sessions, the patient should not do it immediately after emotional upheaval or a traumatic event.
Sometimes, people have trouble processing or think “too much” about a loss they experience. For instance, ruminating a month after a spouse or lover’s death can be considered normal, but the same after losing a commonplace belonging is too much. In the latter instance, it is optimal to administer expressive writing therapy with a patient. The research indicates that this practice works at a modest rate and has varying effects like any other treatment technique.
Benefits of Expressive Writing Therapy
According to an article by Karen A.B. and Kay W., there are multiple long-term benefits of expressive writing therapy, including:
-fewer stress-related medical consultations,
-improved lung and liver function,
-fewer post-traumatic avoidance and intrusion symptoms,
-improved working memory and performance,
-improved mood and greater psychological well-being, etc.
Read more: Benefits of music therapy for ADHD
How Can Expressive Writing Therapy Help You?
Firstly, expressive writing helps you organize the events in your life into a meaningful structure or provide order to them. This structure leads to more adaptive internal schemas(modes of operation) through organized traumatic memories.
Secondly, repeated exposure to traumatic events through memory reduces emotional reactivity toward them.
Finally, stress is released with the expression of inhibited emotions. Hence, it is a better alternative than keeping said emotions bottled up.
Read more: Therapeutic art activities to help you relax
Expressive writing therapy can help patients process unsettling or traumatic memories through creative self-expression. The activity involves writing continuously for three intervals of 15 minutes each. The written material is for the patient only, not to be shared with the therapist or any group. For the same reason, it holds potential as a self-help activity, especially for those unwilling or able to access therapy. While therapy is a better option than self-help, informed by various studies, experiments, and the discipline of psychology, sometimes you may find accessing the same difficult. On that note, here is a list of five affordable online therapy platforms that provide quality care.
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