Can expressive writing take the place of therapy?
People go to therapy for different reasons. There are many different approaches to help heal the mind. Freud, Jung, Adler, Gestalt, walking, talking, and art therapy all have their place and devoted followers.
I would say using expressive writing over any other method depends on you and the nature of the issue.
The exercise is to write about an emotional topic that has been causing you pain.
The caveat is, anything you do by yourself will only be effective if you’re 100% honest.
For many people and many situations, to look at it out in the open, think about it, name it, and reflect about it on paper is enough to untie the knot. Lift the load. Let it go.
For others, the topic is super complex, and sometimes our ego doesn't let us look at the ugly or difficult stuff. At least not without crashing. So, our minds make up stories to protect our sense of self.
Writer and host Ashley C. Ford tweeted something that really resonated with me:
Of course there’s a lot to be said to reframe our pain and look at what it is teaching us. This is a valid mindset and important to let go and forgive. However, if like in Ashley’s case we find that looking at the positives turned into another way to limit us, then a professional therapist can ask questions and challenge those assumptions.
In essence, expressive writing exercises are only one way to work through long-seated issues. They are not a cure-all magic trick. You won’t know how it feels for you until you try it, and if you feel panic writing about a specific situation, stop writing.
A little discomfort, grief, or sadness is normal, like when you’re watching a sad movie. These feelings should pass within an hour or two. You will find yourself feeling calmer and wiser. If they don’t pass, please contact a counselor or therapist.
Use your best judgment and remember that you are always in control.