Journaling for healing? Are reading and writing effective therapeutic practices?

Journaling as therapy

Healing is the journey intended in a therapy session, but growth comes in many forms and reading, writing, and journaling for healing, all can complement the therapy process.

We take some time to interview our experienced therapists in Sydney about their ideas on reading and journaling for healing.

Q. People often turn to books, podcasts etc. as a means of therapy. Does this work?

Jacqueline Stone: It’s understandable that when people struggle, they search for answers. One of the first things they discover is that they’re not alone in their pain or feelings of being stuck or lost.

Looking to books, podcasts and other sources is an easy, low-threat way of beginning to reflect and think about taking steps towards help.

The only potential downside is if they then delay getting the help that they deserve. Ultimately, we’re not meant to be alone in our struggles, so reaching out to others, therapy or otherwise, is important.

Jill Schmidt-Lindner: A lot of therapy happens outside of the therapy room. It’s a very positive thing if clients are seeking growth and are curious about themselves and their relationships. Reading and writing can be a very important part of that exploration.

If their search extends to social media, while there can be constructive information and positive resources there, it can also reinforce a sense of pressure to live up to a fake world.

There is an important role here for therapy, reality testing and facilitating the expression of your own beliefs and thoughts, rather than what they portray on social media.

Journaling as therapy

Q: What role has reading, and writing done for you, either personally or professionally?

Jacqueline Stone: I was never one for creative writing or even for keeping a diary. However, I’ve discovered that writing can be an invaluable introspective tool. Writing is a muscle that you can strengthen with use. It’s not for everyone, but you may be surprised if you’re inclined to give it a go.

Reading has always been a passion that comes and goes in both my personal and professional life. I love the learning, the escape, and the humanity I discover from reading. There is excellent therapy to be found in stories. When you’re struggling with stress, depression, or anxiety, it can be difficult to read and concentrate, but sometimes audiobooks still offer relief.

Jill Schmidt-Lindner: For me, writing has been a wonderful tool for personal development and creativity. Creativity can be a big part of therapy: to create new ideas and possibilities.

Creativity can get stifled in relationships, in work, and in life. Therapy can safely enable personal creativity. In this way, journaling can support this too. It is a therapeutic process, a creative way of working with yourself. It can bring healing and show parts of our internal world that may not be known.

Dominique Smajstr: Writing for me is both a pleasure and a practice that supports my professional and personal development. Writing about my ideas, concerns and feelings helps me to pause and reflect to gain clarity before I act, which helps me live a balanced life connected to my values.

Writing has also been a powerful way for me to tell my story, from which I have found much solace, and it has been an important investment in my emotional well-being.

Journaling as therapy

Q: Some clients are long-time journalers, some take it up during therapy. Is journaling for healing a good thing?

Dominique Smajstr: I think journaling has an inherently therapeutic quality, as it can be a validating and cathartic process. It provides you with the opportunity to express your innermost thoughts and feelings in a safe and private way, as well as offering a space for meaningful reflections.

Journaling can make sense of your experiences, and, in therapy, it can explore recurring themes, patterns, beliefs, wishes and challenges. I think journaling can be a very meaningful adjunct to therapy.

Jacqueline Stone: Journaling, doing ‘morning pages’, or keeping a gratitude diary is an excellent therapeutic tool. If it is not your thing, there are other ways of creating a reflective frame of mind, like walking or swimming.

We spend so little time doing nothing, with our phones always ready to provide external stimulation and there’s little time for thoughts and feelings just to emerge. Like doing therapy, journaling can be challenging but offers a way to reflect, express ourselves and decompress.

Jill Schmidt-Lindner: Writing is a positive and helpful way of externalising thoughts and feelings. It can help to stop the rumination inside. It can be a significant element of personal processing. (However, if you find it extends a negative cycle of thinking, it can do more harm than good — you will recognise if this is the case.)

While it is not for everyone, writing or journaling can be a way to make things concrete, to help us remember and to help us process.

Did you enjoy this?
View more interviews with our experienced counsellors in Sydney’s CBD.

How exercise can help with mental health with Jacqueline Stone.

How individual therapy can help with relationship problems with Dominique Smajstr.

The effects living abroad can have on mental health with Jill Schmidt-Lindner.

How to Get the Most out of Online Counselling

Online counselling Australia

Online counselling and therapy have been an option for a long time. Many years ago, remote consultations were considered a fallback – technology that allowed us to bridge the odd gap in therapy when a client was away from Sydney for work. Admittedly back then we even frowned upon counsellors and psychologists who offered online counselling as a service in its own right.

My conversion came many years ago when I had a number of clients moving away, interstate and overseas, who requested to continue their therapy online. I agreed and discovered that it was an excellent way to support them through their stressful transition to a new period in their lives…

Over time I realised that we were still doing good work – too good to stop. The penny dropped for me – online counselling was a highly effective way to work with clients.

Now, while being primarily Sydney therapists in our downtown office, we have provided online therapy to people moving abroad, living remotely, doing shift work, travelling for work, living in a non-English speaking country, and so forth.


How to Get the Most out of Online Counselling and Therapy

5 Tips and Considerations

1. You will get more from your session if you have uninterrupted privacy

This is the beauty of the therapy office, you escape into a haven outside of your everyday. Without this luxury, you must do what you can to replicate the space and privacy.

Right now in our practice, ‘car sessions’ (even some in the garage) are on the rise. Alternatively, choose and plan your session time — when you can close the door to the room, or maybe when the rest of the household is out for a walk.

2. Ensure a transition to and from your therapy session

You do not have the walk or ride to and from your session, to ponder or reflect. Maybe take a brief walk, stretch or plan a quick break before and after your appointment time. You will engage more fully this way.

3. Don’t let it be another work meeting

Like planning a transition, make your online counselling time as different from work as possible. If you can, move out of your workspace. Log out of everything else and turn off all notifications. Switch out of work mode to get the full benefit.

4. Work hard but safely

It is a bit like getting physically fit with a trainer— you want to work hard but safely. No point if you don’t get your heart rate up and break a sweat. But you don’t want to get injured either.

Likewise, with your online counselling. You want to feel supported and understood but you also want it to be productive and work with the difficulties and discomfort in order to get real relief. And of course to do so safely.

Your counsellor, psychologist or therapist must facilitate a safe space in person or remotely. Choose a practitioner who is qualified, meets your specific needs and is skilled to ensure your work together is constructive.

5. Consider and choose your preferred delivery mode

It makes sense for a first session to have a standard video-conference meeting, on a device with decent video, audio and connection. However, you do have choices for subsequent meetings and you might like to trial different options and see what works best for you.

Let’s be honest. There are some very real advantages to pre-COVID, old-style counselling – leaving work or home and visiting your therapist in a comfortable, private office. With online counselling, however, you need to create a conducive space for yourself.

Will a hand-held device on a comfortable couch suit you best? Or will you be more comfortable with your laptop at your desk? Perhaps you will prefer audio only, and choose the relaxed focus of a clear phone call, after a day of video meetings and staring at screens.

Online counselling and therapy are proven and effective services. It might not be your first choice but you can make it work for you. With the stress and aftermath of the pandemic, on top of the stress that was already there, you deserve the help it will bring.

If you have any questions or to make an inquiry book a free 10 minute call.

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