“The self on the page”: The therapeutic value of writing Communitas, 2007: 12(1)

“THE SELF ON THE PAGE”: THE THERAPEUTIC VALUE OF WRITING
Communitas
ISSN 1023-0556
2007 12: 133 – 151
Zarine Roodt*

ABSTRACT

This article comprises a review of writing as therapy, a therapy practised by the client
her- or himself as a means of achieving equilibrium on a psychological level – the self
on the page1. In this sense it focuses on the therapeutic value of autobiographical
writing – which is inherently a communication act. It underscores a substantial body of
research which validates the notion that individuals can bring about physical and
psychological change by writing about traumatic experiences. Writing in this manner
vents the emotions associated with trauma, enables the individual to gain distance and
insight, and could – ultimately – lead to the integration of such experiences and
emotions. Therefore, it should be understood that writing in this way is a form of “selfhelp”
therapy. However, some measure of support is advised for the individual wishing
to practise writing as a form of personal therapy. In its treatment of the therapeutic
value of writing, this article spans two broad themes: first, it posits a rationale for the
therapeutic value of writing, and secondly, it explores the application of writing as
therapy. In this process, a number of related aspects are reviewed, namely the
therapeutic benefits, as well as the constraints related to this form of writing. On a
more practical level, specific techniques and exercises are discussed briefly.

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