Write it out! (writing as therapy)
Writing is quite simply a fantastic way to work through your thoughts and feelings. There are two excellent ways of using creative writing to help you to feel better. First of all by joining a therapeutic writing group or working with a counsellor who specialises in therapeutic writing. Secondly by writing alone for yourself.
In the first, you are guided and supported by a professional. You will be given 'tasks' and the counsellor will make suggestions about how to progress. They will help you to reflect on the meaning of what you have written. This can be excellent therapy, a way of working through memories, fears and hopes. You can gain insight into matters that you have struggled with for years. You can work through issues and plan a happier more positive future. If you are in a group, there is the added addition of support from other group members - groups are usually kept small, with the 'leader' ensuring everyone gets a chance to share. A real group atmosphere can develop with a contract in place to ensure confidentiality and equality. If you work one to one with a counsellor, you obviously miss out on the support of peers, but you gain the undivided attention of a person who knows how powerful the written word can be. Working with a professional will often involve suggestions for work to be done at home and there may be a reading list or suggestions of how you can move on.
In the second, there is just you and your pen or keyboard! This can be daunting, but allows you total freedom to write what you want when you want. In this situation, I suggest that the writing itself is the therapy. This means that you are not necessarily working through past events through writing about them, you are expressing your feelings through creative writing.
If you find it difficult to get started on your own, here are a few suggestions - all free or cheap! Look on the internet or in a magazine for a photo of some aspect of nature: trees, the sea, a long beach, whatever takes your interest - then write about it. Do the same for pictures of animals or people. Create a story, write a poem or just describe what you see. Alternatively, sit in a park or a shopping centre, watch, listen and write. Go with the flow. If you want to re-write, edit and share with others, that's up to you. The main aim is to get writing.
There are some excellent books on journal writing out there, with great ideas for getting creative. Whether you seek the support of an expert or just get on with writing on your own, the benefits of creative writing are enormous.
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About Dahlian Kirby
I am a counsellor, writer and lecturer. I run therapeutic writing groups and also work with individuals on therapeutic journal writing by e-mail and post.
I have a PhD in applied ethics.