Journal therapy is the purposeful and intentional use of reflective or process writing to facilitate psychological, emotional or physical healing and to further therapeutic goals (Adams 1990). The development of writing therapy, though still embryonic, is growing through both the work of individuals and the expansion of organisations such as Lapidus (UK) and the National Association of Poetry Therapy (USA) and is supported by a research base (Pennebaker 1990; Bolton 1999; Lowe 2000; Wright and Chung 2001). This movement comprises a continuum of different methods and sets of techniques of which journal therapy is part. They have much in common despite avowals of difference dependent on context, background or philosophy. Burghild Nina Holzer, who changes the name of her journal writing courses depending on the context, illustrates this idea of similarity: 'in the end it didn't matter what the title was, I was always teaching the same thing. I could have called it “The expansion and integration of consciousness through writing” or I could have called it “Learning to Write in Curves”' (Holzer 1994:3).
Journal writing can be a prelude to talking therapy; techniques can be used between therapy sessions to provide a greater continuity of the work done or within the session as a basis for the work. Talking in therapy about the process of journal writing can be more productive than reading journal extracts aloud, although clients sometimes want to read something they have written as a way of communicating difficult or painful material. Writing can express material which is previously unexpressed or access previously inaccessible material, allowing it to come to the surface. Paradoxically, a tightly structured task can circumvent the defences and allow some surprising realisations to emerge. By occupying the conscious mind with a defined task the unconscious mind can be allowed to step forward (see 'Lists of 100', p. 77). Clients bring the insights they have gained in their out-of-session journal work, often saying, 'I realise…', 'I learned…'.
The word 'journal' comes from the French journée: day. In the seventeenth century it meant a day's travel and the record of a day's events. Journal-journée-journey: the word contains both continuity and change, temporal and geographical,