Expressive writing for peace and healing : Kate Murphy Therapy
Kate Murphy, LCSW specializes in working with people suffering from anxiety and depression, and provides couples therapy including premarital counseling in the Atlanta metro area of Norcross, GA at the Pathway Center for Psychotherapy.
premarital counseling, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, anger, control issues, career issues, stress, lack of balance, individual therapy, couples therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, Atlanta GA, Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Fulton County, Norcross GA.
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Expressive writing for peace and healing

Expressive Writing

Expressive writing for peace and healing

Is there something that happened in your past that you cannot stop thinking about? An incident or relationship that continues to feel deeply sad, shameful, or distressing?  The past shows up through rumination, nightmares, or flashbacks. The experience may be a secret. Expressive writing can bring peace and healing of a psyhic wound.

Expressive Writing

Expressive WritingLong ago in a college psychology class in the 1980’s, I read about new research led by social psychologist, James Pennebaker, PhD. The research showed that writing about a traumatic incident each day for 4 consecutive days yielded health benefits. The study sounded interesting.

In the study, research subjects wrote for 15 minutes over 4 consecutive days. One group – the control group – wrote objectively about superficial topics.

The second group – the experimental group – wrote about the most traumatic experiences of their lives. They detailed their feelings and thoughts about their experience over the 4 days.

The experimental group was found to visit the student health center less than the control group in a 6-month follow up.

A few decades later in grad school, I read about expressive writing again. By this time, the study had been replicated hundreds of times with different populations. The research continued to show significant results that benefitted physical and mental health.

Get Started

This method of finding relief, healing, and peace is free. All you need is paper and writing instrument or the electronic writing method of your choice.

  • Find a time that works to write daily for 4 days.
  • Block out 30 minutes on your calendar.
  • Write about your overwhelming or traumatic event for 15 minutes over 4 days. Don’t worry about grammar or style, just write.
  • After 4 days, check in with how you feel when you think about the event. You may want to read over your writing to see how details or perspectives in your writing have shifted.
  • Check in with yourself again in 30 days to reflect on the event. How disturbing is it now? How has your sleep and health been over the last month?


Emotional Benefits of Expressive Writing

  • Acknowledgment – traumatic or overwhelming events are often confusing so labeling events and emotions produces structure, creates categories such that events begin to make more sense. 
  • Additional structure – timelines help create a coherent narrative, a clear beginning, middle and end develops. 
  • Multiple perspectives and complexities are added to the narrative – a self-distanced perspective emerges. 
  • Repeated telling – over time the details are more concise or simpler which makes them – and you – more understandable.


Physical Benefits of Expressive Writing

  • When the story is more manageable there is less need to process. Less processing frees up working memory – better focus. 
  • ConnectionIncreased quality of sleep.
  • Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD have been shown. 
  • Reduction in biological markers of stress; increase in immune function.
  • The ability to stay present increases as rumination and dysregulation decreases. 
  • Ability to enjoy relationships – existing & new – by connecting differently. Able to share more, laugh more.  


Additionally, if you choose to share the event and process with loved ones, they can bear witness and validate your experience. Life blossoms when the closest relationships become deeper and more authentic.


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