Using Writing in Therapy
As a former English teacher, I often try to find uses for writing in therapy. With kids, I use journaling, with directive “assignments” to get them used to opening up. Writing can really reveal a lot of thought and feeling and for some, getting started is often the hardest part. So if I give them a journal and a starting place, I often get some very deep thought returned. I then use what they have written as a spring board to delve into the direction they have indicated. I have a list of “assignments” that I have gathered through the years and I can tailor the assignment to the need. The child is often amazed at how deep the thought goes, opening up an avenue to explore the feelings. Many who are already more adept at verbalizing their feelings can easily put much of their feelings into words, giving them more control over and understanding of the emotions that arise.
I recently attended a workshop on “Storytelling” with Dr. Grace Mims of UNK. I have used many narrative parts, especially in the beginning stages of therapy, and I was amazed by how many other uses the written language can have which can be integrated into therapy. I was intrigued by the “Who Am I?” and “Why Am I Here?” stories. With questions posed by the therapist, a person is first guided and then mirrored (given feedback) to tell the story. Both of these lead to self-reflection as well as opening the pathways to allow someone else (therapist) the knowledge to work more closely in helping the client develop the strength and faith to make change or to accept one’s truth.
Other stories Dr. Mims suggested are “The Vision” story,” Teaching” stories, “Values-in-Action” stories, and “I Know What You are Thinking” Stories. All of these strategies can be used to verbalize more deeply that which is sometimes “stuck” inside. These strategies can then lead to “Restorying” which is a way to change the way a person looks at things. I had used this strategy, in a little different form, to help clients work through some grief. I used it by having the client re-tell the story in the way he/she “wanted” it to be, especially if there were something left undone or unsaid that the client was having some regrets about. Being able to go back and “write” the story with a different outcome then allows the client to let go of some of the painful thoughts and look at the outcome differently.
With writing, even journaling, the therapist then has something concrete to look at, identifying symbols and metaphors. These can be critical in helping clients to really become more specific about thoughts and feelings. As a former English teacher, this is one thing I really like to look at and offers an additional tool to help people look inside. What is also nice is that, when once written down, the client also has that available too. How nice to be able to go back, at a different time and in a different frame of mind, and read the thoughts and feelings shared.
Another great “tool” for helping children with writing and feelings is a book by Lynn Widdifield of Grand Island called “A Book About Me”. It offers a workbook type format, and it encourages personal exploration through word and art.
While these writing strategies can be used by therapists, they also can be used by a client alone. The truth really does lie “within” the person, and just by sitting down and writing, a person can learn volumes about himself or herself.
Widdifield, Lynn Flint., A book about me. Morris Publishing, Kearney, NE. 1999.Tags: expression of feelings through writing, journaling, storytelling, using writing to get in touch with yourself, writing for theerapy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Professional Counselor
Advanced Clinical HypnoTherapist
- Deb England began working part-time for Wholeness Healing Center in September 2004 and began full-time in May 2005. Deb practices primarily in the Broken Bow office and one day a week in the Grand Island office. Previously she had completed her practicum and internship at Morning Star Alliance, working in the Broken Bow and Grand Island offices.
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