3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge Therapy

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge TherapyAlmost every self-help approach will advocate Journaling as a tool for emotional processing, but so often it simply doesn’t work. This is because there are foundational principles that make recording your inner world therapeutic.

I Did It My Way…

First Key Principle: you need to do it your own way. We probably have a picture in our mind of sitting in a window thoughtfully recording in a hardcover journal with the red ribbon bookmark hanging down. Romantic indeed, but everyone is different with different brain wiring and different life experiences. So when we journal, we can write notes in a book or we can take a large format sheet and fill it with colour: splashes of paint, or crayons, or drawing spider diagrams, etc, etc. Find your way of getting what is inside out onto paper. Yes, digital can work best for some people.

You find whatever works for you and it must be yours. It can be as weird and as creative as you like because it’s about you processing what’s happening inside of you.

Express, Process, Integrate

Second Key Principle: There are 3 different and discrete stages to Therapeutic Journaling; there are different needs for expressing, processing and, then finally, integrating. Because people don’t understand the differences, they muddle them up and journaling doesn’t work to shift an issue.

  • 3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge TherapyWhen you’re feeling something emotional that you’re trying to express, you need to start with a venting process to just get it all out. The standard term here is “evacuating”, which means emptying – getting as much out as possible with as little interference as possible. Get it Out.
    • I phrase this as “just write words”;  so there’s no structure, there’s no thought, there’s no judgment. You have a word in your head and you put it down; it might be the right word or it might not – that’s for future you to decide. It doesn’t have to be a good word it doesn’t have to be a clever word, it just needs to be words.
    • So simply get a piece of paper and write words, phrases or even sentences. The only requirement is an ejecting (vomiting) of what is happening inside and then the recording.
  • The second stage is processing; the moulding of your raw material into something. The task of this phase is ordering your inner world to make some form of sense. Processing is another common, perhaps cliched, term, but what does it mean in practice. Simply put it is about moving from point A to point B. Point A is the ejected insides where the journey starts and point B is the new understanding you are exploring. The question for this phase is what does this mean? Make Sense.
    • Allow the outcome to be something new, even unexpected (possibly uncomfortable). The more that you try to structure the material into what you already think or what you want it to be, the less you will allow change. Remember that you are only doing any of this because something that is unresolved is bothering you. By definition, you need something new to emerge.

You know who you are, but know not who you could be. William Shakespeare

  • Once you have expressed your inner thoughts and feelings creating the raw material that you processed into some useful understanding, what do you do with this? This is now the step of integration; of taking what you have gained and bringing it back into your life. Here you ask the question what do I do with this new understanding? Plan and Take Action.

The crucial element behind this principle of journaling for growth is that these three stages are discrete processes. When you muddle them, they just cannot work. There’s no functional way that you can express yourself deeply while also editing and judging yourself.

3 Steps to Journaling with Impact Storm's Edge Therapy[BonusBar: A final point of great value is that once you have created your raw material the second two phases can be repeated multiple times, reordering for different needs/contexts and then also replanning with different strategies. The basic resource can be used over and over and even combined with raw thoughts from different times.]

“Your audience gives you everything you need.” (Fanny Brice)

Third Key Principle: to have an audience. In that first process of getting it all out, there is no audience, you are not even an audience. However, our brains are built to make meaning and, in particular, social meaning. So after the initial expressing, there needs to be a context to the processing; this is a key difference to when thoughts are spinning around in our own head. People that are more socially driven find it best it imagines a particular person or scenario. While more systems orientated people are better able to related to solving a particular problem.

  • How would I explain this to them?
  • How do they see this and how do I change their minds?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What is the best way to help them understand what I mean?

In Short: Find your own way. Separate expressing, processing and integrating. Have an audience (remember not for expressing).

[Sidebar: if you need emotional safety, then think about a context rather than a particular person or problem; this strategy should be less triggering.]

Journaling can be an effective way of self-therapy, but needs to be done in a way that digs deep enough and then encourages you to apply helpful understandings. Therapeutic Journaling can be used to uncover motivates which are proving difficult to find or to shift; as well as a tool for managing intense emotions or difficult memories.

Is Mindfulness Useful in Therapy? Storm's Edge Therapy

Is Mindfulness Useful in Therapy?

What is Mindfulness?

Is Mindfulness Useful in Therapy? Storm's Edge Therapy

Currently, this fashionable catchphrase is everywhere and promoted as the cure for everything from improving your relationship to weight loss. So what is it and can it possibly live up to all the hype? At the simple level mindfulness is noticing your thoughts, well that’s not a big deal everyone knows what they are thinking. The key element the practice of mindfulness adds is noticing what is happening at the time and not getting caught up in those thoughts. So if you are worried about paying your bills or what a friend said earlier, your mind is thinking about the issue and, hopefully, on task to solve the situation. But without noticing this can go in any number of directions:

  • your mind could go around in loops without getting anywhere,
  • you could slip into a dark place unawares,
  • you could work yourself up into anger about a small incident, etc.

Is Mindfulness Useful in Therapy? Storm's Edge Therapy

Catching Your Own Slippery Thoughts

Mindfulness is aimed at putting you in the driver seat in relation to your thought processes. So instead of getting lost for hours worrying about the nasty comment from your friend, you catch your thoughts and find a way out. This is especially helpful when trying to change a habit, even a thinking habit. For example, after a nasty comment you might steam and swirl until you explode. By noticing that you are spiralling you have the possibility of catching your pattern and make a different choice; without the skill of noticing then the only choice is running with the same old damaging habit.

A Guide Is Needed

Well if it is so simple and so useful why isn’t everyone already mindfulness whizzes? Firstly, it is a skill; mindfulness is an ability that you need to develop over time with practise. Secondly, it is simple but vague and elusive; which means that you need guidance and there will be ups and downs. Thirdly, it can be uncomfortable and the benefits don’t come immediately or systematically. In short, it is useful, but not particularly easy to learn.

This is made so much worse by the casual and superficial marketing; do this thing and it will be great. Mindfulness is actually multifaceted with different elements having different benefits; it is not just one tool. The benefits of mindfulness in a therapeutic context is that you have an experienced guide and that the process is focused on individualised problem solving. It is specifically structured around learning to use the abilities of your own mind to understand and improve your mental health struggles.

Using mindfulness can be a powerful tool within a therapy process whatever you are trying to resolve.

Contact Between Therapy Sessions Storm's Edge Therapy

Contact Between Therapy Sessions

Why do therapists not allow or limit contact outside of arranged session times? Surely the more contact the better and it seems obvious that a therapist will be the most useful at the time when you need them.

Contact Between Therapy Sessions Storm's Edge TherapyOf course, different schools of therapy apply a range of strategies. However, it is still a generally held norm that many therapists do not do therapy between sessions. There are a great number of reasons why this has become so well established and widely considered best practice:

  • The therapeutic relationship is affected by communicating over different channels;
    • for example, communicating over text or email is more informal and can be more personal
  • There is a greater chance of misunderstandings developing without non-verbal queues and almost no way of checking we are on the same page or correcting miscommunications; this can do far more harm than good
  • The more time spent thinking about the client, especially outside of the session, the more the therapist aligns to their way of experiencing and understanding.
    • This leads to a loss of distance and objectivity, soon and without noticing, you have two minds thinking about the situation in the same way.
    • This will essentially make change improbable and the therapy ineffective
  • This counteracts the function of having therapy only once a week which is aimed at building the client’s capacity to resolve situations themselves, to learn to hold difficult emotions and to bring summaries/interpretations of incidents rather than offloading raw experience for the therapist to process

The list above is certainly not exhaustive with many reasons relating to specific situations. Nevertheless, these are some of the key general ideas that benefit the client.

Early in my career, like many therapists, I didn’t take this careful and strategic framing of the therapeutic process seriously, but have come to learn that therapeutic communications between sessions so often led to a failure of the therapy process.