Journal Therapy: Why Your Therapist Recommends It

08 January 2021: Jamie Petersen


The mental health services in the U.S. have been noticing an enormous positive shift in how people perceive therapy. It is no longer a taboo subject as it was in the past. In fact, millennials are now the generation therapy, with more younger people in their 20’s and 30’s taking pride in seeing a therapist. They are now taking control of their mental health and are proud of it.

Curiosity is sending more people to a therapist to try out a session or two and to experience the benefits for themselves. Did you know that one of the first things that your counselor, mental health coach, or therapist will instruct you to do is journal? And if you are already journaling, they may recommend that you journal more…

So, why does your therapist recommend you journal more? Let’s explore the reasons in this article.

Journal therapy helps ease emotions and stress


 Journaling in Therapy

Journaling is commonly known as journal writing. It consists of a short writing practice that can be done daily. Journaling has become increasingly popular in the mental health community, and, as a result, more therapists are recommending it.

Journal therapy is an excellent way for those seeking therapy to keep track of their emotions, thoughts, and situations through documented exercises as well as prompts. According to the Center for Journal Therapy, it is the

the purposeful and intentional use of reflective writing to further mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health and wellness.

Using a journal creates a reflective environment that allows you to look back on your emotions, intentions, and thoughts. It originated in the 1960s with psychologist Dr. Ira Progroff’s Intensive Journal method.

In recent years, more and more therapists recommend journal therapy because of the long list of benefits that support the process. One of the first things that attract therapists to use journal therapy is how easy it is to set-up and the ability to guide their clients between sessions in writing about specific thoughts and emotions.

Essentially, the core of journal therapy is that it helps clients capture their emotions, much like expressive writing. They can analyze their concerns and initiate a constructive dialogue with themselves. This helps a therapist to decipher what has happened outside of their sessions with their client.


The Science Behind It

The science behind journal therapy continues to unlock the fantastic benefits of routinely journaling to improve mental health. In fact, journal therapy is used to help a variety of conditions, including the following:

Remember, journal therapy on its own will not cure a client’s condition. However, it does support treatment by helping uncover a wide variety of concerns that clients are dealing with.


Studies in Favor of Journal Therapy

Study 1

A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association exploring the benefits of writing showed that there is a lot more behind journal therapy than what we realize. 107 people who have asthma and rheumatoid arthritis wrote for 20-minutes, for 3 consecutive days. 71 patients uncovered stressful events, and 37 patients exposed emotionally neutral subjects related to their daily plans.

4 months afterward, 70 of the patients who continued to write showed improvement on objective, clinical evaluations. Those who continued to write about their stress also improved and deteriorated less.

So writing helped patients get better, and also kept them from getting worse. – Smyth

Study 2

Another study from the University of California also extensively analyzed the benefits of writing about your experiences. They took 20 volunteers to a lab to have a brain scan. Before the scan was done, the volunteers were asked to write for 20-minutes a day, for 4 days. 10 candidates wrote about an emotional experience; the other ten wrote about something neutral.

The brain scan showed that the emotional-lead writing experience induced relaxed activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex.

Brain Scan after journaling

How Does Journal Therapy Work?

Journal therapy is primarily used to help people in therapy to increase their awareness and insights. It also helps promote change and growth, and it helps patients further develop a heightened sense of who they are. Simply put, it encourages mindfulness.

A journal therapist will guide a person towards their goals and intentions through various activities and writing prompts. The act of writing often relieves tension and helps bring about clarity.

Journaling is not a limited activity and can be used in many different ways. There are some general processes that many therapists will use:

Your therapist may also recommend that you journal at home too because of the many benefits attached to journaling, such as: 

Start Journaling

If your therapist has recommended that you start journaling, then there is no one-size-fits-all way to journal. You can match your journaling needs with your lifestyle and your personality.

And, of course, even if it is not a recommendation from your therapist, starting journaling as a new routine is also highly beneficial.

Many people will do their journaling on the go too, if they live a busy lifestyle but are still trying to make time for their writing. Others prefer to steer away from the traditional pen and paper writing and keep their journaling online using a platform such as Emote.

However, you choose to journal, whether it is alone or in a group, or even with your therapist; it is highly beneficial and rewarding.

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