“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”- Seamus Heaney
The Coronavirus pandemic had a huge impact on how therapists work. With face to face meet-ups no longer possible during lockdown, counsellors have had to adapt quickly with phone or on-line sessions becoming the ‘new norm’.
Not everyone is comfortable with working online. Instant messaging has offered a ‘quick-fire’ option that many young people are adept at – but for a deeper exploration of our inner world an exchange of writing between client and therapist via email can feel focusing and meditative, a powerful means of tapping into unconscious processes and reflecting the therapeutic relational experience of feeling really heard and understood.
I interviewed Dorset therapist Susan Reynolds who has embraced incorporating writing into her counselling sessions – with positive feedback.
JBB: Why have you been drawn to incorporating writing into your therapy sessions?
SR: While counselling on Zoom works well, for some people it’s quite difficult to find the privacy at home to talk freely especially if they’re looking after children or other relatives. Writing thoughts down can be more flexible and private.
JBB: What have you learnt about the benefits of writing as a therapeutic tool?
SR: Writing has a unique way of allowing you to explore personal thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to worry about what other people think of you, or even if you are expressing yourself well. You can just let it all out. It’s very freeing.
JBB: What do you think it is about writing as a form of communication in your counselling sessions that might benefit clients over the more traditional talking, face to face therapy that has been your normal practice?
SR: Depending on how you were listened to, or not, as a child – it can be hard to talk to someone face to face about your most private thoughts. Many of us are ashamed of our deepest feelings. Writing allows us a safe way to dip into those without risking rejection. Writing also has a unique unconscious-to-paper direct link – you can surprise yourself by expressing things you never knew about yourself.
JBB: What kind of feedback have your clients given you about how they’ve found working in this way?
SR: Clients I’ve worked with have valued the flexibility and freedom of email therapy, particularly during the lockdown when privacy is harder to come by. They also find that it’s a great way to deal with stress – you can feel so much better once you have written out your worries. I have discovered this year that this is a great way to do therapy.
Writing as therapy-practice could also work for you if you have a disability that makes travel difficult, need flexibility because of a busy schedule or shift work, or because you’ve always enjoyed writing as a way of accessing what you’re thinking and feeling. I’ve worked with clients in this way when they’ve emigrated, when they’ve worked abroad for parts of the year and when they’ve needed a way of continuing with the therapeutic work during a holiday period.