The value of Journaling for emotional expression

When counseling women and men, I often suggest journaling topics for homework. The topics are usually heavy or uncomfortable emotions, with questions to answer in a free-form writing assignment. Although some folks resist writing activities, I know that it can be a way to use stream of consciousness to tap into hidden beliefs and values. And the process can help get to the core of troubling emotional or behavioral patterns.

One of my specialties in couples counseling is facilitating between the different communication and emotional expression styles that women and men have. I just found the following discussion at on Men's Health and the potential benefit of writing to specifically assist men in expressing emotions:

"A well known psychologist, James Pennebaker, has demonstrated that emotional expressions can benefit health by the simple device of keeping a diary. The diary provides a outlet for emotional expression and not only appears to have a positive emotional effect but improves immune function as well. In fact written emotional expression has been researched in terms of benefits to physical health, physiological functioning and daily living activities; in each case with positive findings. Could the simple act of keeping a diary be a useful compromise for men and bridge the gap between their inability to transmit, receive and manage emotional messages? (Source: adapted from Lee, C & Glynn Owens, R (2002) The Psychology of Men's Health. Open University Press.)"

I think writing a journal for one's own benefit is a powerful access to creativity and emotions. As well, I suggest writing letters to your partner if verbal expression of emotions is difficult for you. This is a great step towards strengthening your self expression and connection.

Jennifer Gunsaullus, Ph.D.

Sex Therapy & Relationship Counseling in San Diego