Can writing improve mental and emotional stability? Does it help people to deal with traumatic situations? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. Writing absolutely has mental health benefits. In fact, there are many therapists and counselors who include writing therapy as part of their treatment regimen for people who are dealing with stress, trauma, anxiety, major life change, addiction, and other difficulties. On a personal level, you may have used writing as therapeutic tool yourself. If you’ve ever used a journal to pour your heart out or vent your frustrations, you have used writing as a tool to cope with those frustrations. Likewise, if you’ve ever written a letter or sent an email letting somebody know how you really feel about a situation, positive or negative, and then felt better, you know the benefits of writing as a mental and emotional release.
Have you ever wondered how or why that works? When you write, how does that influence your brain and thought processes? Why are certain people more compelled to write on a regular basis? Are there groups of people who would benefit from writing therapy more than others? How does somebody get started with a journal or diary? Keep reading!
How And Why Does Writing For Mental Health Work?
Patients undergoing writing therapy are asked to write about their lives as part of a therapeutic process. People undergoing writing therapy may write about specific experiences, memories, their emotions, and their goals. People who see counselors or therapists that use writing therapy may be asked to keep a journal of their emotions, write letters, create fictional stories based on their feelings, or even write poetry. Writing as therapy isn’t something that is simply faddish. These techniques are more than 50 years old.
From a physical standpoint, many scientists believe that writing therapy works, because the release that is felt by patients relieve stress. It can also positively impact blood pressure. When stress is reduced, or it is relieved altogether, the person who is using writing to improve their mental and emotional health has more reserves to create strategies to make any life changes that they need to make for themselves. This is a very common phenomenon for anybody who is in crisis, whether that crisis is financial, physical, or emotional. They are too mentally emotionally taxed to find ways to fix their situation.
Why Are Certain Populations More Drawn to Writing as a Form of Therapy or Self Help?
Teenagers, prisoners, the mentally ill, people with chronic illnesses, and crime victims, among others all have the tendency to use writing to express themselves and sort out their feelings. This is true whether or not writing is part of a formal therapy plan or simply something that is taken on by the individual under their own accord. There is a lot of truth behind the stereotype of the teenager venting in his or her diary or writing love letters to a lost loved one. Of course, this is just one example, lots of at risk populations use writing as a way to communicate, cope, and process what is happening to them.
Writing Therapy And at Risk Youth And Others
Many teenagers enjoy using writing to express themselves and to work through their emotions. This is why creative writing is often a popular class among high school and college students. The act of writing provides emotional release and gives young people a healthy option for working through traumatic experiences, negative emotions, and common adolescent crises. However, as beneficial as writing can be to the average adolescent, it can be even more beneficial to at risk youth.
At risk youth are children and teenagers who are at risk for any one or more of the following:
- Dropping out of school
- Becoming involved in the criminal justice system
- Using drugs or alcohol
- Running away from home or becoming homeless
- Struggling with mental health issues
- Being victims of abuse or exploitation
Of course, before they are identified as needing services, many youth have already been directly impacted by at least one of these risk factors.
Many organizations that are dedicated to helping at risk youth use writing as one of many treatment protocols. Youths may be asked to write poetry, short stories, and even their own autobiographies. They may also be encouraged to keep journals. Even storytelling can be a part of an effective writing therapy program. There have even been programs where at risk youth write plays about their experiences that are acted out by themselves and their peers.
Writing therapy for at risk youth has a place in juvenile detention facilities, mental hospitals, schools that are located in troubled areas, group homes, and camps or other private facilities that have been created specifically to help troubled youth. These programs are also well-suited for boys and girls clubs and community centers, especially ones that are located in areas where the average youth is at higher risk of social, emotional, educational, or legal problems.
The benefits that at risk children receive through writing include the following:
- Improved literacy
- Increased coping schools
- Improved emotional and mental maturity
- A greater understanding of self
- Greater empathy
- Improved self esteem
- Learning to use writing to replace unhealthy or antisocial coping strategies
Similar writing therapy programs have also been used in prisons and in other institutions to help adults who struggle with mental disorders, antisocial behaviors, and a criminal history. Just as writing helps teenagers, these adults are able to process past trauma, modify behavior patterns, and learn more about themselves by writing about their experiences. Some, are even able to improve their ability to feel empathy and relate to others.
Clearly, writing is an activity that has major mental health benefits. This applies to people who are undergoing life changes, simply struggling to grow up, or who are truly at risk. People who are struggling emotionally should be encouraged to use writing as a healthy means of expression and self discovery.
I’m a writer, formerly an athlete in past and that has influenced on my outlook greatly. I’m an extremely active person and pet lover. I give great writing advice over at GhostProfessors.