Journal Therapy

Individuals

Writing about our experiences helps us process them in a more integrated way. Writing about our thoughts and feelings helps us understand them. Sometimes we don’t even know what we think or how we feel until we start writing! If you’re interested, I’m happy to guide you down the potentially life-changing path of therapeutic writing.

Since adolescence, I have kept a diary or journal with varying degrees of consistency. I majored in Creative Writing as an undergraduate and in 2008 I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. In 2016, I inherited a box of my late grandmother’s diaries and was inspired to research the benefits of diary and journal writing. Through that research I discovered Expressive Writing (James Pennebaker), the Intensive Journal Method (Ira Progoff), and the Journal Ladder (Kay Adams). I’ve been devoted to Journal Therapy ever since. You can hear me talk more about it in this State of Things interview, and in this Living Well interview.

My approach to Journal Therapy when working with individual clients is simple. I assign writing prompts — all optional — based on whatever material is covered in a given talk therapy session. Clients then complete these journaling exercises as “homework” between sessions. In most cases I don’t actually read what clients write, because people tend to edit themselves too much when there’s an audience — even an audience of one. The next time we meet, we might explore their experience of journaling and what they learned from it. Or we might not! The content of a particular session always depends on what feels most relevant for the client on that day.

Groups

On a regular, rotating basis, I host journal therapy workshops that use the Journal Ladder to facilitate self-discovery and social connection. The Journal Ladder, created by Kay Adams of the Therapeutic Writing Institute, starts with very structured, time-limited “writes” and ends with longer, deeper-reaching free writes. Its prompts progress from information-based, to insight-driven, to purely intuitive.

Participants of these 4-week writing workshops will do at least two in-class exercises a week and have a chance to share their reflections on the experience. Each week’s homework assignments will vary depending on what “rung” of the ladder we’re exploring. Group members will have a chance to share their reflections on the homework, along with brief readings from the journals themselves.

Given the personal nature of journal therapy, these workshops will abide by the rules common to any kind of therapy group. Everything shared in the group will be confidential. Emotions of all kinds, expressed authentically and respectfully, will be welcomed and encouraged.

The cost of the workshop is $80, or $20 per 75-minute session. As is the case with most classes/tuition, full payment is required at the first meeting. If you’re interested in participating, please email sarahsimpsoncounseling@gmail.com or call 919-805-4096 for details on when the next workshop will take place.