Benefits of therapeutic journalling

Therapeutic journaling can be massively beneficial to your mental and physical health and is a particularly helpful tool to reflect your feelings when you are stressed, anxious, depressed or generally feeling negative. Therapeutic journaling gives you the time and space to really express yourself and your words in a free environment and can lead to healing, empowerment and personal growth.


How does therapeutic journalling work?

The idea of therapeutic journaling is that it allows you to write what you feel which in turn supports you in discovering your true emotions and perceptions which may not be obvious on a day-to-day basis.

Scientists have found that regular therapeutic journaling helps the writer find meaning within their experiences even if they are difficult or stressful and by journalling about them, it allows the writer to look at them from a different perspective and even see outcomes that are positive. Studies have found that journalling can also benefit those suffering from PTSD, depression and chronic illness.

Therapeutic Journaling is different to keeping a diary

Whilst there is no right or wrong way to journal there is a difference between keeping a diary and therapeutic journaling. Writing a diary is generally about writing your thoughts down from the day. This may include details of the day, what’s happened and how you felt about it and writing may be sporadic as opposed to a regular basis.

Therapeutic journaling will generally include development and growth milestones which the writer will be able to identify whilst journaling in this way on a regular basis. Therapeutic journaling is an expressive form of writing that will benefit the writer in a therapeutic way. The writer can do this on their own or as part of their counselling journey. The aim of the journal is to work towards understanding emotions. When working with a professional therapist benefits may include working with physical issues which may include trauma recovery, relationships, grief, anxiety and other issues. 

Whether you are working with a therapist or keeping a therapeutic journal by yourself there are definite benefits. These may include the following:

  • boost working memory
  • regulate emotions
  • stress reduction
  • support in achieving goals
  • empowering self
  • emotional intelligence
  • overall well-being improvement

Tools for journaling

Whilst everyone is free to choose what tools they journal with, electronic or pen and paper, selecting the right tools are important. By using a pen and paper as opposed to an electronic device, studies have shown that writing by hand activates more areas of the brain as opposed to writing on a computer for example. Choose a notepad and pen that is attractive to you, allowing you the delight of using these implements that make you happy and allow creative writing. However you choose to embark on this great journey, it really does need to be comfortable for you, and that is most important.

How to start your therapeutic journal

Create the right environment for you. Turn off the tv, find a quiet place or even play some background music/calming noises and perhaps you would like to light some candles

There is no perfect way to begin journaling. It can be a few pages or a few words. You certainly don’t need to be an established author to begin the process. The most important thing is that whatever you are writing about is meaningful to you and should come to you naturally.

Don’t worry about spelling or grammar, it doesn’t have to be perfect as this concern may hold you back with regard to what you are creating in your mind. Remember that this journal is for your eyes only so write for you! Be authentic and don’t hold back as this won’t do you any favours, be open and honest with yourself. Try not to think too hard or worry about what to write, just allow the words to come to you naturally and begin. Write in your journal for 15-30 minutes and then allow 5-10 minutes afterwards to process your emotions and have a little bit of reflection time.

Ideas for journaling

  • Write lists – A gratitude list, a positive qualities list, a list of what makes you angry, happy sad or fearful or an action list of what you will need to improve your life
  • The letter you won’t send – Write a letter to someone who has wronged you, someone who has passed or someone who you need to speak your mind to. You won’t send this letter but the process of writing it is very therapeutic. Maybe you will write a letter of forgiveness to yourself
  • Captured moments – Write about your earliest moment, your happiest moment, a positive moment, a negative moment, the scariest thing you have ever done or the bravest
  • A biography – Write about your life in chronological order, or write your future, use your imagination about what you will do in the next 10 years or so and write it. Focus on goals, dreams and achievements. Write a biography of a loved one or one which overcomes issues you are struggling with right now
  • Sprint writing – Choose a topic on which to write, and blast it for 20 to 40 minutes, keep going until your timer sounds

Don’t forget to write some feedback for yourself at the end of each exercise. Thoughts, feelings, what stood out, what surprised you, physical reactions or reflections. 

There are a number of ways that you can use journaling to support your therapeutic journey. Whether structured, artistic or free journaling, there can be a way to support you.

  • Gratitude journal – Focus your journal on what amazing things you have going on in your life, including past, present and future
  • Personal journal – Run through your day and include thoughts and feelings, look out for any traits that are repeating
  • Reflection journal – Focusing on thoughts and feelings in the present, don’t forget to give yourself feedback when finished
  • Goal journal – Focus on decision-making, growth and holding yourself accountable for actions

Helpful prompts

  • If I were to be honest...
  • If my body could talk...
  • If I knew I couldn’t fail...
  • If I could talk to my childhood self...
  • I feel...
  • I am...
  • I love...
  • I am most afraid about...
  • I see...
  • I do...
  • I am surprised when...
  • My earliest memory is...
  • I would like to go...
  • I would like to be...
  • I say yes when I’m asked...

However you choose to write your therapeutic journal, it is about you. It’s yours and yours alone. Your words, pictures or lists, your thoughts and feelings. Be honest with yourself and enjoy the process!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Telford, Shropshire, TF2
Written by Nicki Cawley
Telford, Shropshire, TF2

As I counsellor and psychotherapist I understand the issues in the articles I write. I try my best to keep my writing as simple as possible to allow anyone to have a read. No jargon needed! I feel passionate about all of my articles and write them so that I can help as many people as possible. Thank you for reading.

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals