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Therapeutic Writing: An Introduction

WRITEIt makes sense that writing is helpful for trauma. After all, writing can play a part in any phase of evidenced-based trauma treatment, whether safety and coping improvement, exposure or reintegration. And research has shown that writing can reduce stress, improve coping skills, mood and physical health. and when used in a specifically structured way, writing therapy can be as effective as treatments like CBT for PTSD. Writing therapies have emerged from all over the therapeutic landscape: from cognitive-behavioral to psychodynamic methods to systems and family therapy to trauma therapy. Modes of writing range from traditional journal entries to poetry to trauma narratives to letters.

When can it help?

Studies have found that writing has been helpful in the following situations:

  • Time-limited brief therapy
  • Choosing to keep a journal or diary
  • Feeling powerless
  • When using a second language in therapy, using the first language for writing
  • Feeling silenced by shame
  • Wanting to externalize and organize thoughts and feelings
  • Disclose or process a traumatic experience
  • In a time of transition/life stage change

Where do I start?

There are a lot of books that offer guidance on what to write, if you find that you’re not sure where to start. Here are a few. As always, you decide what’s the best fit for you and if you find that the writing is making things worse, then it’s probably best to stop and try something else, like seeing a professional.
Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives

Expressive Writing: Words that Heal

The Inner Child Workbook: What to do with your past when it just won’t go away

The Artist’s Way

Writing From the Inner Self
Image from Karin Dalziel via Compfight

Therapeutic Writing: An Introduction

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2015). Therapeutic Writing: An Introduction. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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