Faced with composing my second blog offering, I immediately decided to write about one of my favourite subjects – writing. For the purpose of this article it will be more specifically about therapeutic writing. I’ve enjoyed writing all my life. In my twenties I enrolled on a creative writing course but then I didn’t develop my writing any further as life took me in a different direction and subsequently I was distracted by motherhood.
A few decades later, having retrained as a counsellor and then as an online counsellor, my interest in writing returned with a vengeance. In recent years I’ve attended a number of therapeutic writing workshops both online (including the excellent one run by Gill Jones at OLT) and in person. I’ve also read many books on the subject.
I then discovered Lapidus but noticed that many of the Lapidus members appear to be highly trained writers, often having MAs in creative writing or something similar. As I’m not highly trained in this field, I initially fe
lt nervous about introducing therapeutic writing tasks into my counselling practice, questioning whether I was competent enough. I’m sure there are other counsellors in a similar position to myself, who wonder whether they dare to use therapeutic writing with their clients.
The fact that the clients who are drawn to email counselling, are usually the people who like to communicate using the written word and means they are likely to engage well with writing tasks. With this in mind, I eventually took the tentative step and discovered that I already have much I can use with clients and that generally these clients appreciate the introduction of therapeutic writing tasks.
Trainers will be aware that there are different learning styles and that those who have a ‘verbal’ (linguistic) learning style, prefer using words, both in speech and writing. As counselling is a way of learning about ourselves and growing in our self-awareness, therapeutic writing can be a wonderful tool, especially for people who have a verbal learning style. And text based online counselling is the perfect platform for it.
As Gillie Bolton said: “Just words on a page, put together with love and trust and care, can help us learn things about our lives, memories, thoughts, feelings and fears we didn’t know before, or that we sort of knew and had forgotten, or that we knew only too well and never wanted to think about. Putting them on paper is a beginning of sharing and can make such things easier to share with other people and a burden shared is not only a burden halved, but it brings companionship…” (Words for Wellbeing, 2012 p.34)
Therapeutic writing tasks can include journal writing; poetry written either by the client or by others; using metaphors or visual prompts; mindfulness with writing and there are many other therapeutic writing activities that the online counsellor can use, such as unsent letters.
There isn’t the space in this short article to go into the different activities but there are plenty of books available to get you started. You could start by searching on Amazon and then don’t be afraid to suggest writing tasks to your clients, they will soon tell you if it isn’t for them.