As the counselling session was winding up, Jack’s counsellor discussed recommendations for Jack to follow up with before their next scheduled session together.
“Jack, please read this handout, it relates to a number of the points we talked about in our session.” “Also, I would like you to do some writing.”
“Writing?” said Jack.
“I want you to do something called ‘stream of consciousness journaling’” replied his counsellor. “It’s a form of writing we often use in therapy to give clients an opportunity to practice expressing their thoughts and feelings.”
“I thought that’s what counselling is for” said Jack.
“It is”, said the counsellor, “but there are additional benefits to journaling.”
“Like what?” said Jack.
“As we’ve already discussed, it gives people an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings, but at any time of day or night, in nearly any situation, and provides many of the same benefits as talking: it helps to relieve tension, and often provides insight into our issues.” “In fact, there are studies to show significant mental, emotional and physical health benefits related to journaling.”
“What’s involved?” asked Jack.
“It’s pretty straight forward. First you need a blank journal to write in, though typing on a computer is okay too.” “It’s important that however you do your writing that you keep your writing secure – a lot of private stuff goes in there.”
“What kind of stuff?” asked Jack.
“Uncensored thoughts and feelings” replied Jack’s counsellor.
“Do I need to show you what I write?” asked Jack, looking a little apprehensive.
“Only if you want to.” “The focus is more on the process of doing the writing than on what is actually written – though looking over what you have written after a few days of writing may help to provide some interesting insights.”
“What kind of insights?” asked Jack.
“You may find a few themes emerging in what you write; stuff that’s in the back of your mind, in the subconscious part of the brain.” These are things about which you are concerned, but are not immediately aware of due to the distractions and overall business of everyday life.” “Done right, journaling will lead to self-reflection and insight.”
“How do I do it?” asked Jack.
“Since it is only for you, spelling and grammar aren’t important.” “The only real rule is that once you start, you need to try to keep going for a full 15 to 20 minutes without stopping.” “Also, it’s important to be consistent; many people find it helpful to begin their day with journaling.”
“What do I write about?” asked Jack.
“Whatever comes to mind” said his counsellor. “But whatever it is, the main focus should be on the expression of thoughts and feelings.”
“What if I don’t ‘do feelings’?” said jack, with a slight smile and a twinkle in his eye.
“Maybe you could start by writing about how you feel about your not ‘doing feelings,’” replied the counsellor, also smiling.
* For more information on the process and benefits of stream of consciousness journaling, see Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way.