When is Reflective Writing a Healing Tool?

Therapeutic Writing is a practice often used by therapists with trauma survivors.

Therapeutic Writing is a practice often used by therapists with trauma survivors.

Keeping a journal has long been a coveted personal practice, those that have adopted this feel as though it is their special me time each day. There are many types of journals and suggested topics that create their own practices, such as a daily Joy Journal or a Gratitude Journal used to count the many blessings in our lives at the close of each day. What a great way to recapture your day, to recount your steps and thoughts, and to name those of value before you close your eyes to sleep. The emotion of gratitude has well documented shifts on our neurochemistry which help to heal our physical body as well as our outlook on life.

Therapeutic Writing is a practice often used by therapists with trauma survivors. This technique helps the survivor to begin the process of recognizing how their past experiences are influencing their present life. It teaches and reinforces the use of “I” for these clients, which helps to keep the past more distant from the present. These are well documented techniques that have proven healing outcomes. Time Magazine, How Writing Heals Wounds-Of Both the Mind and Body (by Maia Szalavitz July 13,2013) “…Talking about difficult experiences can be a way of easing the emotional pain of trauma, but the latest research shows that expressing emotions in words can also speed physical healing….”

Whether simply called keeping a journal, gratitude journaling, a mindfulness practice, or therapeutic writing, the process is best defined as reflective writing. Reflective writing is used to examine and explore an event or observation, or deep memories. When these are examined through writing, the writer “reflects” on the meaning of this event and its impact in the writer’s life.

Most writing is creative where the author creates a story or uses an experience in his own life as a basis for description. Reflective writing allows us the safety to explore honest feelings, past choices and their outcome in our life. It provides a personal mirror into our lives so that we can quietly reflect on how our past choices have recreated patterns in  our lives and helps us to recognize these in those parts of our lives that create difficulty.

When my own children were young, I started to carve out time for myself each morning to journal. It was a hard thing to do since my first foot out of bed seemed to stir at least one of my daughters to join me! But I needed time to explore who I was, where I felt the stirrings of my heart were leading me. It was a very important step in my life; the start of self-exploration that has blossomed into my life as an author and coach. Yet it was only later, when I joined a group that met monthly to explore our spirituality that I learned the true healing power of my journal.

That group was led by a profound woman and longtime friend. We joined monthly at a beautiful country home and learned the art and spiritual practice of what was called meditative journaling. Using meditation, prompts from various sacred texts, poetry, and breathwork, we then began silent journaling. We were taught to “await the impulse” to write rather than our first thoughts that usually pour into our journals. That way, I learned that I had a whispering voice within myself. A voice that was guiding me, affirming me, opening me to the greater beauty of wholeness. And a voice that has grown stronger as I turned to it and strengthened its place in my life.

This has become my almost daily spiritual practice, and this voice is now the only one that I allow to guide my choices, advise my relationships, and shower me with the love that only the divine can offer us. It’s the voice that contains no judgement, shame, or guilt. Instead, it provides an honest appraisal that allows forgiveness, compassion, and joy. It’s the voice of my eternal self, that is no longer silenced by my outer awareness and mental preoccupations.

As the author of two books, Life as a Prayer was just published in June and Sally: A Memoir that outlined my mother’s death in hospice, I have both used my journal to help form the foundation of each book as well as to help others to see the immense benefits of this type of writing. It is writing. It is prayer. It is selfcare. It is a spiritual practice.

I now combine my healing work as a Reiki Master and Holistic Healing Practitioner with reflective writing in my individual Reflective Writing Coaching. For these sessions I work with clients to connect with this voice, their most sacred self. For most of us, this takes practice and dedication. For some, there are overwhelming emotions associated with facing our mortality, healing after loss and dealing with grief that make it especially hard to access. These can be eased with the use of Reiki and other healing tools. My approach is to allow the loving energy of Reiki to open these areas naturally, so that the outcome is gentle and always provides the experience of love beyond these areas. I leave this work feeling blessed and more deeply connected as a beautiful benefit of this work. I offer online coaching as well; these sessions are effective from a distance as well as in person.

For more information about Reflective Writing Coaching or to schedule an appointment, click on this link. I look forward to working with you.