In psychological therapy multiple and different problems, disorders and personal difficulties are addressed. Psychologists who practice psychotherapy (the best known way to practice “psychology”) have to be very creative when choosing, creating or adapting the therapeutic tools they will use to give “in the right key”. One of the most used techniques in psychotherapy is writing, so in this article we will explain what it is and why it is used as a therapeutic tool.
There are different ways to use writing as a therapeutic tool, but all agree that they seek externalization on the role of mental contents such as: thoughts, doubts, desires, goals, objectives, planning and also feelings and emotions . Now, writing about all this without any guidelines or professional advice is not therapeutic. That is to say, that it is a patterned writing, ritualized and with guidelines is what makes the writing therapeutic.
With which people can writing be used as a therapeutic tool?
Although writing as a therapeutic tool can be used in various situations and reasons for consultation, it is a recommended technique for a specific profile of patients and problems. In the first place, it is a technique that is recommended for patients who have enough reading and writing skills to be able to face the task well. In other words, they must be people who are not anxious about having to write, who are capable of doing the task without experiencing a sense of disability or inferiority.
In this sense, we mean that the task has to be a “safe bet”. If we know that the patient has the necessary skills but does not believe he is capable of writing for a therapeutic purpose, it is necessary to work before the session, aspects such as self-esteem, self-concept and self-efficacy. Once all these personal characteristics have been improved, writing can be used as a therapeutic tool.
Secondly, writing helps a lot to patients who have difficulty verbalizing what happens to them, feel, think or want . For these people, writing is a way of letting go of what affects them without having pressure and without feeling shame. Also writing about thoughts, feelings and desires is one of the best ways to put them in order. In this way, the chaotic becomes manageable and clear ideas. Therefore, it is very good to use writing as a therapeutic tool in very introverted people.
When is writing used as a therapeutic tool?
Once it is clear that the patient can perform the therapeutic tasks of writing, we must adapt the task to your particular case. The most frequent situations in which writing tasks are chosen are the following:
Emotional management of uncomfortable feelings in front of past events.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Prepare a duel .
Assume the change of role or life cycle.
Taking perspective in front of a problem.
Prevent relapses (both in cases of addictions and in anxiety or depression disorders).
In addition to being used in these situations that are clinical psychology, that is, in which there is a diagnosis, you can also use writing as a tool in processes of coaching and personal transformation. When defining objectives and developing an action plan to achieve them, writing is the best tool . Having in view -on paper- what you want to achieve and thinking about how to achieve it is also a motivational strategy that releases attention resources, allowing you to assign them to focus on what you really have to do.
What are the most common therapeutic writing tasks?
Writing as a therapeutic tool is used with specific objectives. On the other hand, within the most common tasks we find three categories: letters, phrases or messages and diaries. The letters are quite used in psychotherapy, the most frequent is to ask the patient to write a letter to himself or write it to someone or a symptom. The patient is asked to express everything they think or feel in that letter, and then everything written in the therapy session is worked on.
On the other hand, phrases or messages are used that are almost always directed towards oneself and seek to remember important personal qualities, self-motivate or avoid stumbling over the same stone as always. In these cases, the patient is asked to write in a post it and place this message in plain sight or to carry the phrase or message in his portfolio so that he can use it to recharge the motivation in those moments when he needs it.
Finally, newspapers are also used. With this type of task the patient is asked to write each day about a particular topic (which must be carefully selected). With this type of task, the patient can also see for himself the evolution of his problem, his improvements and his changes. In all cases, all the content written in the diary must be worked on in the therapy session ; for writing to be therapeutic, once it is written on paper, it has to be worked with the psychologist or psychologist in session. This is the moment in which we can get the most out of this tool, which does not mean that in the writing process there has been some relief in the patient.