Can Writing Therapy Help Troubled Teens?

Writing Therapy Goes Beyond a Simple Journal Entry

Teenage girl journaling on her bed
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Writing therapy for teens uses the written word in many different forms as a way to help troubled teens gain insight into their emotions and behavior.

What Is Writing Therapy?

Writing therapy is used by many therapists to help teens verbalize their feelings in written words. Sometimes called journal therapy, writing therapy uses various exercises to open a dialogue between teens and therapists that can help improve their mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

There are therapists who are trained specifically in writing or journal therapy, just as there are art and music therapists.

Therapeutic writing includes:

  • Poetry
  • Storytelling
  • Narratives
  • Dialogue
  • Humorous stories
  • Journaling

It is one approach that can help relieve stress, figure out problems, work through painful feelings, make connections between feelings and behavior and much more.

  • It can be easily adapted to any problem or situation that a teen is dealing with.
  • Research has shown that this type of expressive therapy is effective in improving both mental and physical health.
  • Writing therapy is often used to enhance individual and group therapy sessions. Teens can write about issues that come up in therapy or painful experiences that are difficult to discuss.

Examples of Writing Therapy

In this type of therapy, a teen can freely express whatever comes to mind or focus on certain problems or feelings.

There are a number of ways that writing therapy helps teens heal:

  • Write about a specific theme, such as a description of what their depression feels like.
  • Write a letter to a person that the teen feels anger toward.
  • Teens with drug problems can write a letter to their drug of choice. They describe how important it has become to them and this can bring the scope of the problem into reality for them.
  • Track new behaviors such as not using drugs or not cutting themselves.
  • Letting off steam by exploring and expressing the anger.
  • A daily diary to confide in and sort out feelings.
  • Gain self-understanding by reading entries written over time.

Why Writing Therapy Helps Troubled Teens

Teens often feel overwhelmed by their emotions or uncertain about how to deal with difficult situations. Writing therapy can help clarify what they are feeling and identify ways to cope.

Teens most likely to benefit from writing therapy are those who are introspective and enjoy writing. Any type of teen problem can be addressed through the process of writing therapy.

Isn't Journaling Enough?

Some parents may be wondering whether keeping a journal on their own will be enough for their teen. 

While keeping a journal or diary can help many teens realize and express their feelings privately, some teens may need extra help in interpreting those journal entries. That is where a trained therapist can be helpful. 

Writing therapy goes beyond a simple diary entry.

The therapist can guide a troubled teen through productive writing exercises that target specific issues and problems. They will also assist the teen in using their written words to explore the issue in-depth and, hopefully, come to a solution or alternative behavior.

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2 Sources
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  1. Mugerwa S, Holden JD. Writing therapy: a new tool for general practiceBr J Gen Pract. 2012;62(605):661-663. doi:10.3399/bjgp12X659457

  2. Utley A, Garza Y. The Therapeutic Use of Journaling With Adolescents. J Creat Ment Health. 2011;6(1):29-41. doi:10.1080/15401383.2011.557312