The ease and accessibility of advanced journaling has made it an essential part of many peoples’ mental health routines. It’s been a huge success in popular culture. People have incorporated it into self-care routines, meditations, and mindfulness and gratitude exercises — and for good reason. It can help keep negative thoughts at bay, boost positivity, reduce stress, and generally improve well-being. All of those benefits make journaling an especially useful tool for clients and their therapists to work on together. It’s an interactive way to check in with clients, track their progress, and keep them engaged in their mental health journey. So how can clients get started, and take it to the next level? Let’s dive into a few strategies.
Getting started with Advanced Journaling
Like incorporating any habit into daily life, getting clients started with advanced journaling is often the hardest part. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to do it effectively:
- Introduce journaling: Explain to the client what advanced journaling is, how it’s beneficial to health and well-being, and what long-term positive changes clients can expect to see if they stick to it.
- Try it together: While clients are still fresh to advanced journaling, try doing the first few entries together. Give clients a few minutes during sessions to get their thoughts down. If they’re not sure what to write about, try these prompts. After building a level of comfort with advanced journaling, encourage clients to start writing outside of sessions. This doesn’t have to be a huge task. Just 5 to 10 minutes a day is enough to maintain high levels of homework compliance, and build a concrete habit.
- Check in: Be sure to review progress during sessions. Ask your client what’s working, what’s not, and how you can support them in their journaling. Every client is different, and shifting to meet their unique needs will ensure they’re enjoying the process, and noticing their own growth and progress. Celebrating their wins is one of the best ways to keep clients motivated.
- Incorporate digital tools: Digital tools like Therachat can help keep your clients on-track between sessions, keep them engaged, and support them in reaching their goals faster. For more information, read our FAQ.
Taking it to the next level
Once a client has aced the basics of advanced journaling and tried a few prompts, take it to the next level. Here’s how.
Incorporate the body
The mind-body connection is central to maintaining positive mental health in a holistic and sustainable way. The body is where we often hold tense thoughts. So it’s essential to check in and remove that tension. How can we do this with advanced journaling? Try movement and meditation.
- Meditation: With the rise of meditation apps like Headspace and Calm right on our personal devices, it’s become easier than ever to set time aside to be with our thoughts and focus on our breathing. As a result, many more clients are now aware of meditation, and open to trying it for themselves.
- Before journaling: Get clients to try meditating before journaling to relax, get their thoughts in order, and set their intentions.
- After journaling: Pouring thoughts and feelings onto a page can sometimes be draining. Get clients to meditate afterwards to clear any old feelings that may have come up, and to find calm. So they can go on with their day with new perspective.
- Exercise: Journaling in conjunction with exercise can be a great way to channel thoughts through the body.
- Before journaling: Engaging in exercise before journaling can help move stagnant energy and give clients the energy they need to articulate themselves. With endorphins flowing, this can also help them with gratitude-focused journaling (more on this below).
- After journaling: Exercise after journaling can push away any negative emotions that may have come up, like anger, anxiety or stress. This is a productive way to clear pent up energy and bring clients back to a positive or neutral state.
Make gratitude the focus
According to research, practicing gratitude is one of the simplest ways to increase and maintain happiness. So incorporating it into journaling can help clients boost enthusiasm, optimism, and even increase energy levels. Try these gratitude-focused prompts:
- 5 things you’re grateful for: This is a perfect starting point. Ask clients to note 5 things they’re grateful for, and encourage them to be as specific as possible. So rather than “I’m grateful for my friends,” try “I’m grateful that I got to catch up with my friend Emily over lunch today.” The specificity not only produces more of an emotional response, but it keeps things interesting.
- Find gratitude in your space: The point of this exercise is to recognize the beauty and abundance around you. Ask clients to look at the physical space and note down everything they’re grateful for. So if they’re in an office, write about the blue sky just outside the window, the comfortable chair to sit in, the plants on their desk that bring life and clean air to the space. Clients can do this anywhere. Encourage them to try it at a park, during a commute, or even after a trip to the grocery store. Things don’t have to be extraordinary to inspire gratitude. In fact, it’s about finding appreciation for the ordinary.
- Time it: Ask clients to set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes and write down everything they’re thankful for. The goal is to go with the flow, to not overthink, and to just get words down on the page. Clients may be surprised at how much they can think of in a few minutes. Over time, this will strengthen mental noting of things clients are thankful for as they go through their day.
Make your clients advanced journaling pros
By making advanced journaling a habit, incorporating movement and meditation, and making gratitude central to the practice, clients can improve and maintain their general well-being. How can you support them along the way? In today’s world, digital tools are the easiest way to stay in touch with clients and keep them engaged in their mental health journey. A digital homework app like Therachat can help you check in on client progress, send them prompts between sessions, and boost advanced journaling compliance – allowing clients to reach their goals faster.
For more information on Therachat, check out our website.