The value of keeping a journal

I cannot stress enough how valuable keeping a journal can be. Writing down our thoughts, feelings and behaviours is free to do, can be done at any time of day or night, with no reliance on or impact on others. It is entirely ‘our thing’, where we can enjoy the luxury of complete uncensored expression. It can provide insight and catharsis.

Something happens during the process in which we write words onto the page, changing them from abstract to concrete, acknowledging and giving weight to their importance and creating ‘a more intense relationship with ourselves …’ (Hazel, 1996).

It is important that our journals are private and for our eyes only. When uninhibited, we can release our creativity, and write exactly what we want, with no inner censor. If we find ourselves censoring, it is important to ask why. Written in this spirit, our journals can become ‘Spontaneous rather than rehearsed, reflective rather than merely descriptive, and alive rather than dead’ (Hazel, 1996).

Being able to write, ponder or rant, can help us to work through thoughts and feelings that we are ruminating on, to ‘alter self-defeating habits…and come to know and accept that self which is you…’ (Rainer, 1980, cited in Hazel, 1996). It can be helpful to become better acquainted with our thought patterns, relationships, what makes us happy and unhappy in the world and to identifying feelings, plan actions and find self-insight.

Writing in a journal can be helpful to explore our dreams, particularly for those of us who find their detail so fleeting. A journal by our beds can help us to capture these dreams before they disappear back into our subconscious.

One of the aims of counselling and psychotherapy is to enable clients to find their own inner resources, to be able to continue their own lives with their own internal counsellor. With a journal, we can work both reflectively and reflexively with that internal counsellor.


Hazel, J. (1996) Personal Development in Counsellor Training, London: Cassell.

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