Talking Therapies vs Writing Therapies

If you are in the helping profession; counselling, mentoring, life coach or health care, you may have clients, or patients who would benefit from writing their emotions down.

The benefit for the helper is that they will get a glimpse into the workings of the person’s mind. Sometimes it is easier to express deep seated emotions on paper, in the quiet of a moment, rather than say difficult emotions in an allocated time.

Talking therapies have their place and it is usually the first means of communication with a person. By careful questioning and facilitating of the helper, the individual is able to share what is troubling them.

What is more therapeutic though?

Psychologist Robert Ornstein, suggests that the brain deals with talking and writing in different ways. In other words, memories especially painful ones are stored in an area called the amygdala, which is the emotional centre of the brain. Writing taps into this area easier than talking and in turn creates calm and release.

Of course there is nothing more validating and reassuring than talking to a sympathetic listener, who allows you the time and space to share your pain. We all need to be given acknowledgment and what is more instant and evident than the  other person giving a knowing nod, an understand look or a comforting ah ha?

As a helper you can incorporate writing in your therapy as a complementary tool. Where you are being the listener in the talking therapy,  in write therapy you need to be the safety net allowing your client to delve into the parts of their minds that are out of reach from talking. Then skillfully bringing them back to a place where they can reflect and reassess.

There needs to be some structure and forethought by the facilitator. But at the same time there has to be room for flexibility as emotions are fluid not static. Therefore, there is a need to have a bag of ‘tricks’ that they can pull out and use sensitively.

If you ask your client to write freestyle, there has to be a time limit, for example 6 minutes. You need to be more aware and alert to how the client is behaving as writing freestyle can reach places that are traumatic.

To manage the therapy well, you need to incorporate some structured writing exercises. Something which has an element of fun and easily achievable. The difference with talking about your issues is that when your session is over, you are left in limbo until the next session.

Whereas, with the writing therapy, it can be used to reflect at home during that period until the following session. Expressive writing such as journaling can be incorporated noting feelings, revelations difficulties.

The client can share what they have written if they choose. What is therapeutic is the process of writing. The facilitator can ask the client to share how they feel, with simple questioning assessing how the client is progressing.

As with all helping relationships there initially has to be a building of trust, especially in a one to one situation. Without this the client will not feel confident or safe in their own ability or the validity of the exercise.

What is not beneficial in using writing in therapy, is assuming that the individual wants to write about their situation. For example, if you are in a health setting and ask the patient to write how they feel about their illness. Despite the patient being ill, what may  need  voicing is how they feel about their relationship, or how others are relating to them, or anything else. Only the writer is the expert of their mind.

If you ask your client to write freestyle, there has to be a time limit, for example 6 minutes. You need to be more aware and alert to how the client is behaving as writing freestyle can reach places that are painful.

To manage the therapy well, you need to incorporate some structured writing exercises. The sessions can be anything from 40-60 minutes and there has to be a resolution in some way. Having themed sessions is a god idea, especially as the relationship grows and the client feels more at ease.

How long should the whole therapy take?

This can be short term, long term or even progressing into groups. It all depends on the individual and also on the need of the client.

Contact me for more information or for a free consultation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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