Creative writing therapy, or therapeutic writing is a form of therapeutic intervention that uses writing as the tool to explore and express your thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s also known as journal therapy – and it’s essentially the art of writing in a journal to heal yourself.
Writing therapy can be a useful tool for people who struggle with mental health, have experienced trauma or grief, or are simply looking for a creative outlet to process their thoughts and feelings. Today we’re going to explore what creative writing therapy is, how it works, and the potential benefits of writing therapy. We’ll also share writing therapy prompts to help you get started and explore writing therapy today.
Please keep in mind that there is no true substitute for seeing a licensed therapist, and if you feel like you could benefit from talking to someone and getting help with what you’re going through – you’re not alone! There are tons of incredible therapists out there to help you. Here at Made with Lemons we’re big advocates for therapy and if you’d like a more inside scoop to our own journey with therapy, join On Your Terms. It’s a wellness newsletter that shares a more inside look to our own wellness journey as well as tools to help you along yours. Learn more about On Your Terms here.
What is Creative Writing Therapy?
Writing therapy, also known as therapeutic writing, is a form of creative and expressive therapy that involves writing about your personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. It can take many forms, including journaling, poetry, creative writing, letter writing, or memoirs. Writing therapy can be done individually or in a group setting. It can also be facilitated by a therapist, counselor or writing coach.
The purpose of creative writing therapy is to help you express and process your emotions in a safe and supportive environment. It’s helpful to be able to write out your thoughts and feelings that might be hard to articulate in other ways.
You might also see therapeutic writing used to help explore issues that are difficult to discuss in traditionally talking therapy sessions. And when your therapist invites you to try writing therapy, it’s also used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as trauma-focused therapy, to enhance its effectiveness.
An example of creative writing therapy could be writing a letter to a person who hurt you, and then shredding or burning the letter to release some of the hurt and anger.
How Does Therapeutic Writing Work?
Writing therapy works by allowing individuals to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that is both private and creative. The act of writing can help you organize your thoughts and gain clarity on your emotions. Writing can also be a way to release pent-up emotions and relieve stress.
For example, if you’re feeling stressed after a long day of work, taking a few moments to write down what’s stressing you out and allowing yourself to let it go, can help you have a calm and more relaxing evening.
Writing therapy should be a truly non judgemental space. It’s a time to write without worrying about grammar, punctuation, or spelling. The goal here is to let words flow freely, without judgment or criticism. Creative writing therapy sessions can be structured or unstructured, and sometimes it’s helpful to use prompts or exercises to help you get started. (i.e. what in your life is bringing you the most anxiety, or writing a letter to your friend to express ___________ hurt you when they said that.)
Oftentimes we find it easier to write about our hurt, our pain and the experiences that caused that, as opposed to opening up to talk about those things. In this way, writing can be a way to explore and process complex emotions such as grief or anger in a safe and supportive environment, where no one can get hurt further by what’s being felt and expressed.
Potential Benefits of Writing Therapy
Now let’s talk about some of the benefits of therapeutic writing.
Improved mental health
Writing therapy can be a tool that helps you manage symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. You can use journaling therapy to express and process difficult emotions, which over time can lead to improved mental regulation and a better sense of control over your thoughts and feelings.
Creative writing therapy can help you gain a better insight into your thoughts and behaviors. By reflecting on your experiences through writing, you can start to identify patterns and gain an understanding of yourself.
Therapeutic writing can be a way to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. Writing is often cathartic, allowing you to release pent-up emotions and start to feel relief from things that would otherwise feel overwhelming.
Improved communication skills
Journal therapy can also help you improve your overall communication skills. When you practice expressing yourself through writing, you can develop more confidence to communicate more effectively in both your personal and professional relationships. In essence, writing your feelings can help you communicate them better when needed.
Lastly, creative writing therapy can also be a way to tap into your creativity and imagination. We talk a lot about your inner child around here, and journal therapy can be another helpful way you can interact with your inner child. Through writing you can explore new ideas and perspectives, leading to your own personal growth.
How to try Creative Writing Therapy Today
Now let’s talk about how you can try therapeutic writing for yourself today. These tips are going to help you get started with writing therapy from home, as a personal activity to help heal yourself.
Set aside dedicated time for writing therapy
Like most self improvement and self care techniques, it helps to set aside a dedicated time to write regularly. We know this can be a challenging task, especially if you’re struggling with mental health issues or challenges in your life. A good place to start is to set aside a few minutes each evening to write and decompress from your day. It can be just 2 minutes before bed. Remember, therapeutic writing is a non judgemental activity, so the amount of time you dedicate isn’t important, it’s just important to show up for yourself.
Find a quiet and comfortable space
Find a place that’s quiet and comfortable, and where you can write without interruptions. Some people find it helpful to create a writing ritual, such as lighting a candle or playing soft music to create a sense of calm and focus. Find what works for you, in a space where you can be alone for a few minutes.
Choose a writing therapy prompt or topic
At the end of this guide we’re going to share writing therapy prompts to help you explore creative writing therapy and give you a starting point. You can also talk to your therapist to get prompts, or find some online. Prompts can be general, such as “write about what makes you grateful or happy”, while others can be more specific, such as “write about a time that you felt overwhelmed.”
Write freely and without judgment
The most important thing about writing therapy is to write freely, without judging yourself. Allow yourself to write without worrying about grammar, punctuation or spelling. Don’t put a time limit on your writing, or feel like you have to write a certain number of words or pages. The goal here is to allow your thoughts and emotions to flow freely without any judgment at all.
Write honestly and openly
Along with being judgment free, it’s also so important that you write honestly and openly. Writing therapy is a space for honesty and openness. This space is created for you to share your thoughts and emotions, even if they're difficult or uncomfortable to confront. Just be open to exploring them, and remember that you don’t have to share this with anyone, so it’s a space where you can be fully honest with yourself.
Reflect on your writing
After writing, you can take a few moments to reflect on what you have written. It might even be helpful to come back to what you have written at another time, when you have a clear head or have left the emotions behind. This can help you consider the emotions and patterns that you have expressed. Doing this reflection can help you gain more insight into your thinking patterns and emotions for future sessions.
Consider sharing your writing with a therapist or counselor
Lastly, consider sharing your writing with a therapist or counselor. They can help you process emotions and gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Sharing your writing can also help you feel less alone in your struggles and provide important validation for your experiences.
20 Writing Therapy Prompts
- When do I feel the most like myself?
- How do I feel at this moment?
- What do I need more of in my life?
- What do I look forward to every day?
- What is a lesson that I had to learn recently?
- Based on my daily routine, where do I see myself in 5 years?
- What don’t I regret?
- What would make me happy right now?
- What has been the hardest thing to forgive myself for?
- What’s bothering me? And why?
- What do I love about myself?
- What are my priorities right now?
- What does my ideal day look like?
- What does my ideal morning look like? Evening?
- Make a list of 30 things that make you smile
- Make a gratitude list
- The words I’d like to live by are…
- I really wish others knew this about me…
- What always brings tears to my eyes?
- What do I need to get off my chest today?
Creative writing therapy can be a powerful tool for exploring and processing thoughts and emotions. When you set aside a dedicated time to write, and create a safe and supportive space for yourself, you can gain insight into your emotions and develop better tools to manage them. With practice and commitment, writing therapy can become a habit for your self care routine.
If you’d like to build the habit of writing therapy in your own life, then we’d like to invite you to download our habit tracker. It’s super easy to use, beautifully designed and completely free. All you need is a google account to access it. Grab a copy of our habit tracker here.