Probably one of the most common reports from people who write journals is that the act of putting thought and feelings on paper helps give useful emotional and mental clarity. However, there is scientific evidence that the relief that comes from writing things down is more than just psychological. Dr. James Pennebaker, a researcher in Texas, has conducted studies that show that when people write about emotionally difficult events or feelings for just 20 minutes at a time over three or four days, their immune system functioning increases. Dr. Pennebaker's studies indicate that the release offered by writing has a direct impact on the body's capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.
Therapists who utilize journal writing in a session often begin by asking the client to write a short "check-in"paragraph or two on "what's going on"--how the client is feeling, what s/he wants to work on in the session, and what's happening in her/his life that impacts the therapeutic work at hand. This writing is usually shared with the therapist, and an "agenda" for the session is set. The therapist then guides the client through a writing exercise designed to address the therapeutic issues or tasks that the client has brought forward in the check-in or warm-up write. This writing usually takes about 10 minutes,and the remainder of the session is spent with the client and therapist exploring the information revealed in the longer write. The session generally concludes with the therapist offering several suggestions for journal "homework" to be completed between
sessions.Journal therapy is also very effective in groups, and it is common for group members to establish a senseof deep community as writings representing authentic expressions of self are shared.
Journal therapy can also be studied through an independent study program such as that
offered through Kathleen Adams' Center for Journal Therapy or through Dr. Progoff's Dialogue House.