Writing therapy: just a piece of paper, a pen, and your motivation to write

You don't have to be Victor Hugo to get into writing. And we're not even suggesting you dive into the second episode of Les Misérables; rather, it's about using this expressive and creative outlet for your own self-development. Or to get through a difficult time. Writing is a versatile form of therapy, and perhaps it could be useful for you too.

Let’s mention at the outset that if you are struggling with a mental illness, it is definitely better to get help from a professional and include therapeutic writing as a supplement under their supervision. If you want to move forward, encourage your personal growth, or practice creative expression, for example, try writing on your own. Take a pen in your hand and get into the words.

Do you think you can do it because you kept a diary when you were younger? Great, don’t lose motivation. Anyway, writing therapy is something else.

  • Keeping a diary is free writing of what comes to mind. The therapeutic form is more focused, often based on specific prompts and exercises.
  • Keeping a diary is usually a record of events, what happened to you, and how it went. The therapeutic form focuses on thinking about events and feelings, interacting with them, and analyzing them.
  • Keeping a diary is purely your personal and individual affair. The therapeutic form, as already mentioned, can also take place in cooperation with a professional or in a group of people.

Benefits of writing therapy

Writing therapy can give you an interesting perspective, which is sometimes not a bad thing to look at yourself and your life from a different angle. You learn new things about yourself or about the people around you. Even in difficult moments, you can manage to feel hopeful and you can bite through negative experiences with less bitterness. And who knows, maybe you’ll find more meaning in your emotions, moods, and experiences.

It always depends on each of us, of course. We are all individuals and have different needs, so the benefits of therapy will vary. Still, let’s take an even closer look at what the science says. It goes much deeper than that. For example, in traumatized people or individuals who have gone through extreme stress, one study found that expressive writing about these lived events leads to improved physical and mental health in both non-clinical and clinical populations. Participants in the study wrote about their experiences for 15 to 20 minutes over three to five days and experienced significantly better physical and psychological outcomes compared to those who wrote about neutral topics.

Another study came to similar conclusions in patients with mild to moderate asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. People wrote about their stressful life experiences, and after 4 months, they experienced clinically relevant changes in their health status compared with patients in the control group. Meanwhile, these gains were greater than those attributable to the standard medical care that all participants received.

In general, writing therapy talks about the benefits of the following conditions and disorders: post-traumatic stress, grief and coping with loss, anxiety and depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance abuse, eating disorders, communication problems, interpersonal problems, etc.

How to get started with writing therapy

The advantage of working with professionals is that they will guide you in your therapy and give you valuable advice. Like how to even get started. If you want to dive into the process independently, definitely don’t be afraid to do it, you’ll just have to figure some things out on your own. How to set yourself up, what works for you, how to be effective, etc.

Here’s some advice to get you started:

  • Write on a piece of paper, notebook, notepad, or online editor. It doesn’t matter. Choose what works for you.
  • Set your terms — when, where, and how long you will write each day. So that you have both a routine and peace of mind. When you do start writing, give it your full attention.
  • Maintain a motive for why you got into writing. It may actually be the first entry in your therapy journal.
  • Name what you want to write about. Focus, relax, breathe, close your eyes quietly, and explore your thoughts and feelings. Then begin and try to write for 5 to 15 minutes without interruption.
  • The first word may be the hardest, don’t give up.
  • Don’t stress if you only write a few words. It’s perfectly okay. Choose your own pace.
  • Don’t judge your writing talent, it’s not important. Grammar, spelling, or typos don’t matter either. The content has to make sense to you. It should be natural and honest.
  • Yes, it should be natural, honest, and authentic – that is, write with the feeling that only you will read it, no one else.
  • You can put it in the form of a letter to yourself or, conversely, a letter to others, or you can create a poem, a mind map, or, in short, a loose block of thoughts.
  • You can write about the present, the future, and the past. Describe what happened and how it made you feel. Share your goals, hopes, and dreams with yourself.
  • When you have finished writing, read your creation and try to reflect on it again. Maybe add one or two more thoughts at the end.

Therapeutic writing is meant to go beneath the surface and explore your inner world. It gives you a chance to observe yourself, perhaps get to know yourself better, and help you out of a difficulty. Do you practice? If so, in what ways has it helped you? Let us know what you think of writing therapy.

Where to start writing? Ideally somewhere quiet, like our cabin. 😊

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OOTOOLNO sees glamping as a momentary bliss in the middle of nature. The mind slows down, the body relaxes, and life gets a new perspective for a moment. How about bringing a similar comfort into your daily routine? Take care of your sleep, cheerful mood, and physical and mental health, because we shouldn’t just feel good on holiday. That’s what our well-being blog is all about. Read on and get inspired.


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