writing therapy

Writing Therapy: What It Is, Exercises, and Prompts

May 1, 2023

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be easy to neglect our emotional needs and put off dealing with our innermost thoughts and feelings. Writing therapy offers a unique and effective way to explore and process our emotions, helping us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and improve our mental health.

In this blog post, we’ll explore seven writing therapy exercises that you can use to improve your mental health. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, or simply need a creative outlet for your emotions, these exercises can help you find the balance and well-being you seek through writing therapy.

By regularly practicing these writing therapy exercises, you can develop a stronger sense of self, find peace amidst life’s challenges, and improve your overall well-being. Whether you’re an experienced writer or just starting out, these exercises can be tailored to your individual needs and goals. However, it’s important to note that writing therapy can be a challenging process, and it’s important to practice self-care and seek professional support if needed.

What Is Writing Therapy?

Writing therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the act of writing to promote healing and improve mental and emotional well-being. The process involves putting thoughts and emotions onto paper or a digital platform, allowing individuals to explore and understand their feelings in a non-judgmental way.

Through writing therapy, individuals can express themselves freely and work through difficult emotions, past traumas, and life transitions.

This form of therapy can be done individually or in group settings, and can be tailored to the needs of each person.

Research has shown that writing therapy can have a positive impact on mental and physical health, reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, and improving sleep quality and immune function. Writing therapy can also help individuals clarify their goals and values, strengthen their relationships, and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

Why Is Writing Therapeutic?

When people write, they are encouraged to dig deep and explore their innermost thoughts and feelings. This process allows individuals to acknowledge and validate their emotions, leading to an improved sense of self-awareness and emotional regulation.

Furthermore, writing can help people gain new insights and perspectives on their past experiences. By reflecting on their past experiences and journaling their thoughts, writers are better able to understand their thought patterns and behaviors, and can develop coping strategies to manage negative emotions.

Overall, writing can be highly therapeutic as it provides individuals with a safe space to process their thoughts and emotions. Through journaling, reflective writing, and expressive writing, writers can gain a better sense of control over their lives and their emotional well-being.

writing therapy for depression

Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of expressive writing a day can lead to improved mood, decreased symptoms of depression, and decreased levels of stress hormones. Writing therapy can be used as a complement to traditional therapy or as a standalone treatment option for those struggling with depression.

If you are struggling with depression, please seek professional help. And if the idea of writing therapy sounds appealing to you, then talk with your therapist about how you can use it as part of your therapy.

writing therapy for grief

Writing therapy can be a valuable tool in processing grief. Through writing about their feelings, those experiencing grief can gain insight into their emotions and begin to understand their reactions. This process can also help them to identify patterns and triggers that may be causing their grief.

Additionally, by expressing their thoughts on paper, individuals can release their emotions and find a sense of catharsis. Writing therapy can also provide a sense of control and structure during a difficult time, allowing the writer to set goals and track progress.

writing therapy for anxiety

Writing therapy is a recognized approach that can be used to ease anxiety. By putting one’s thoughts and feelings down on paper, people gain control over their emotions, expressing them in a productive and healthy way. It also helps to identify and understand the triggers of one’s anxiety, and to develop coping strategies.

Writing therapy has even been shown to physically reduce anxiety, by lowering heart rate and blood pressure. So, whether it’s a daily journal, a gratitude list, or creative writing exercises, putting pen to paper can be a powerful tool in managing anxiety.

writing therapy for trauma

Writing therapy can be an effective tool for individuals recovering from trauma. This approach allows individuals to express their emotions and experiences in a safe space. It provides a way to process, organize, and make sense of difficult emotions, thereby reducing the impact of trauma on their lives.

Writing therapy can also improve mood and overall psychological health. By encouraging self-reflection and introspection, individuals can develop a greater sense of self-awareness, which can lead to greater emotional resilience.

How To Start Therapeutic Writing

To begin your writing therapy journey, there’s no harm in giving it a try on your own. It’s an accessible form of exploration that doesn’t require special equipment or software.

However, it’s essential to remember that writing therapy should not replace professional treatment, particularly if you are dealing with a severe or long-lasting condition or illness. Consult with a mental health professional to identify the best course of action for your unique situation.

Here are some tips to help you get started with writing therapy:

  1. Carve out Time: Set aside a specific time for your writing therapy, and ensure that you have enough uninterrupted time during this period to focus on it entirely.
  2. Identify a Theme: Before you begin writing, identify a few critical topics or ideas you would like to explore during your writing therapy sessions. This will help guide your writing process, ensuring that you’re focused and on track. You could also use prompts to guide your ideas (see below).
  3. Be Flexible: Be kind and flexible with yourself, maintaining few expectations for your writing quality. It isn’t as important as the thoughts you express. Remember that you don’t have to produce a set amount of text; the primary goal is to sit, reflect, and write during your allocated writing therapy time.
  4. Choose a Medium: Use a medium that you trust for your writing therapy sessions, which only you can access. Ensure that you can write candidly without holding anything back, writing for your eyes only and that of your trusted therapist.

With these tips and the help of a mental health professional, you’ll be on your way to experiencing the therapeutic effects that writing therapy can provide.

Note: While sharing your most personal feelings should likely be done in a personal private journal, some people like to journal online in a blog format. If you’re looking to start an online blog for writing and sharing your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives with others then check out our FREE blogging platform at FistbumpPress.

free blogs from FistbumpPress

7 Types of Writing Therapy Exercises

If you are looking for a way to improve your mental health and explore your thoughts and emotions, writing therapy exercises can be a powerful tool. Here are seven exercises that you can use to gain insight into your experiences and cultivate a deeper understanding of yourself.

  1. Free Writing: Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and write whatever comes to mind without censoring or editing. The goal is to let your thoughts flow freely and release any pent-up emotions.
  2. Emotion Mapping: Draw a map of your emotions, with each emotion as a separate island. Write about each island, describing what it feels like and what triggers the emotion.
  3. Self-Reflection: Write about your personal values, beliefs, and goals. This exercise can help you gain clarity about your identity and purpose.
  4. Mindfulness Writing: Write about the present moment, focusing on your senses and surroundings. This exercise can help you cultivate mindfulness and reduce stress and anxiety.
  5. Narrative Therapy: Write a story about yourself or a character who overcomes a challenge or hardship. This exercise can help you reframe your perspective and develop resilience.
  6. Gratitude Writing: Write down three things you are grateful for each day. This exercise can help you cultivate a positive outlook and reduce negative thinking.
  7. Letter Writing: Write a letter to someone you love or admire, expressing your appreciation and gratitude. This exercise can help you strengthen your relationships and boost your mood.

These writing therapy exercises can be done individually, or with the guidance of a therapist or counselor. It’s important to remember that the process of writing therapy can be emotionally challenging, and it’s important to practice self-care and seek professional support if needed. With consistent practice, however, these exercises can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and find greater emotional balance and well-being.

20 Writing Therapy Prompts To Get You Started

Whether you’re writing online in a blog format or in a personal paper journal, when you’re feeling the need to let something out but aren’t sure where to start, then try starting with one of these writing prompts. And feel free to spin off from these prompts into something that will help you express what you need to express in your writing. Regardless, these prompts can help you get past the writer’s block that comes when stating a blank screen or page.

  1. Write about a childhood memory that has stuck with you.
  2. Write a letter to your younger self.
  3. Describe a time when you felt truly happy and content.
  4. Write about a time when you felt overwhelmed or stressed out.
  5. Describe a place that makes you feel calm and at peace.
  6. Write about a fear that you have overcome.
  7. Describe a person who has had a significant impact on your life.
  8. Write a letter to someone you have lost or who is no longer in your life.
  9. Write about a time when you felt proud of yourself.
  10. Describe a difficult decision that you had to make.
  11. Write about a time when you felt betrayed or let down by someone.
  12. Describe a dream or goal that you have for your future.
  13. Write about a mistake you have made and what you learned from it.
  14. Describe a time when you felt misunderstood.
  15. Write about a time when you felt deeply hurt.
  16. Describe a person or situation that makes you feel anxious or stressed out.
  17. Write a letter to someone you admire or look up to.
  18. Write about a time when you felt lost or uncertain about your future.
  19. Describe a moment when you felt grateful.
  20. Write about a situation or person that you need to forgive.

Final Thoughts

I cannot emphasize this enough, but if you are struggling to deal with certain issues in life, please seek professional help. Call someone. Even calling a friend to help you navigate through your troubles can make a big difference. Just don’t stuff it and try to handle it alone.

With that said, writing therapy can be a great tool to improve your mental health and wellness. As you sort out your thoughts and feelings, you’ll find yourself becoming stronger when dealing with challenges in the future. It’s like physical therapy for your mind, will, and emotions.

I would also encourage you to be careful with what you share publicly online. While I’m a huge fan of blogging much of this kind of thing (because it can help someone else deal with their similar challenges), you don’t want to use it as a weapon that tears someone else down.

Regardless, I hope this little guide has been helpful in guiding you towards better mental health through writing therapy.


Dan King

Dan is the founder and president of Fistbump Media. His uncanny wisdom and online prowess is the stuff of legend. When he’s not leading incredible growth around here, he’s loving on his wife of 19+ years, and five kids (2 biological, 3 adopted).

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