When clients struggle to express themselves in the counselling room or their thoughts are all mixed up, I often encourage them to write a journal or diary. Writing gives them the opportunity to express these thoughts and help them try to make understand their feelings and emotions. It provides a release of these emotions and allowing them to express their feelings. It also provides clients a therapeutic way of looking at their situation and try to identify any change that may be needed. In other words they can counsel themselves.
Regular writing helps clients look at their situation or event in a different way allowing them to gain a deeper understanding about how they feel. I find many clients carry on writing down life events after we have finished our counselling sessions and they find that if they do this, it helps them to stop continually attacking themselves in a negative way with their own feelings and emotions.
Writing can be a reflective tool
Writing a diary not only is a therapeutic tool but it gives clients the space and time start writing reflectively. Reflection allows us to look at painful past experiences and to think how we can learn from them. This helps us gain new understanding and use these past experiences as a way of developing new positive actions. If people are self-critical I encourage them to do this in a positive and appreciative way.
When you review your self in a reflective way, look out for negative thought processes and see if there are any patterns. If you spot these, you can reflect on how you can change them and what you can learn for these patterns.
So how do you go about writing?
- You need to write for yourself and write as you feel. Remember no-one else will be reading your work so you do not need to worry about mistakes or correct any grammar or spelling.
- Write somewhere that is comfortable for you but it must be quiet and free from any distractions
- Set some time for yourself every day when you write. I prefer to spend 10 minutes in the evening when I have finished my work with my clients.
- Write on either paper or an electronic device. You need to use whichever tool you are most comfortable with. As I touch type, I prefer to use my laptop. I ensure all my writings are password protected.
- Review your work regularly if you ware wanting to learn the areas you wish to change or develop further. If you are undertaking counselling can learn how to do this with the help of your counsellor.
How I started reflective writing
Before I started reflective writing I struggled. I would often sit there and just stare at my blank screen. I found my mind went blank. I therefore took advice from a close friend of mine who suggested that if I had nothing to write that I wrote that. I can promise you if you start writing ‘I have nothing to say’ a few times that eventually the words start flowing.
Writing reflective can be time consuming and often take courage. In the long term it will help increase your self-awareness and develop a relationship with yourself, letting you listen and learn from your experiences. Have a go today and let me know how you got on….