Modern treatments for a variety of conditions tend to be more holistic than in the past1. While a physician may be able to prescribe medications to deal with some symptoms of an illness, they will often encourage patients to make changes to their lifestyles to assist in the healing process. Everyone benefits from better general health, and that includes people with mental illness. Various forms of art therapy, including writing, can deliver many benefits.
Health Benefits of Writing in Mental Health Therapy
Many people who suffer from mental illness find it frustrating to explain how they are feeling. That frustration can become stressful and cause anxiety. People need to process information faster when communicating verbally. However, if they try to write down their thoughts and feelings, they may find that that is a very therapeutic activity.
Unlike having a conversation, people who are writing can take as much time as they need to formulate their thoughts. When they are in a relaxed, unpressured environment, those who are mentally ill may find they are able to understand their own emotions and explain them through writing.
Even when they are not writing from a personal point of view, people can benefit from expressing themselves through this medium. Mentally ill people can become withdrawn because they struggle to keep up with conversations. Thy may not be able to concentrate enough, and they can become very self-conscious. They may start to avoid situations where they are expected to communicate verbally. Writing helps them overcome these obstacles.
Writing for Self-Awareness
Mentally ill people who write journals can develop a much deeper understanding of what makes them feel good and what causes them distress. By keeping a daily journal and reading back their previous entries, people can develop greater clarity about issues like this.
They can see patterns emerging and can learn to identify factors that either give them a boost or make them anxious. They can then adjust the things they do to avoid negative situations.
Self-Expression and Creativity for Mental Health Therapy
People with mental illness sometimes have ideas about the world that other people have difficulty relating to. Writing therapy provides them with an outlet to express themselves in any way they want. They can create fictional characters in a surreal world and this will be acceptable because it’s fiction. If they want to share their writing with others, people will see this as artistic license rather than something peculiar. That can give the writer a tremendous boost in confidence.
Some of the world’s best known names, including famous authors, struggled with mental illness2. Authors like Leo Tolstoy, Sylvia Plath and Eugene O’Neill used writing as a creative outlet to help them deal with their internal struggles. People can do the same today with the added benefit of having access to vastly improved mental health treatment.