by Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LMSW
Could you or some of your clients benefit from a bit of encouragement or support prior to facing a difficult challenge?
If yes, one powerful technique that you may wish to try is Dima Dupéré’s “Letter of Encouragement” journaling exercise. Dima Dupéré is a social worker in Canada for whom therapeutic writing is her passion.
As per the many studies Dupéré cites in her guide Feeling, Writing, Empowering, journaling benefits people emotionally, physically, and mentally. The writing process in journaling is empowering because you are free to imagine and practice what you want to say or do with others in the safe place of the page (Jacobs, 2004). In addition, it helps you build more confidence in yourself, your intuition, and problem-solving skills (Wright & Chung, 2001).
For your convenience, the required steps for the “Letter of Encouragement” exercise appear in the graphic and are listed below.
“Letter of Encouragement” Journaling Exercise
1. Brainstorm desired outcome from situation. What personality traits might you need to succeed (such as courage, resilience, patience, and so forth)?
2. Write a letter to yourself, as you would to a friend with three main sections as described in the graphic below.
- Remember one or more difficulties you’ve overcome and the skills and attitudes you’ve employed to get through them.
- Discuss the upcoming challenge (fears plus hopes for what you’d like to happen).
- Conclude with a statement to remind you of your strengths and a wish or blessing for your challenge.
3. Nourish growth by talking with clients after they have written the letter.
- Ask them to read the letter if they feel able to. If not, ask if you may read it aloud to them. Others may feel they are only able to share the content of the letter.
- Sit in silence for a bit after they have shared. Some clients may automatically tell you what they feel about what they have written or what they have learned.
- For those who do not volunteer information on their own, ask: How do you feel about what you have written? Did anything surprise you? Did you learn anything about yourself?
- The goal is to focus on strength, courage, and resilience. To that end, ask: Where will you keep this letter? When will you read it? How do you think it will help you?
Depending on how comfortable your clients are with this type of work, this could be completed within one session (in session), used as a basis for discussion, or used as an at-home assignment to be discussed in a following session.
What are your thoughts about this journaling exercise? How might it be of benefit to some of your clients?
Dupéré, D. (2015). Feeling, writing, empowering: Integrating therapeutic writing into practice with groups and individuals. Front Eye Publishers.
Jacobs, B. (2004). Writing for Emotional Balance. Oakland, CA: Raincoast Books.
Wright, J., & Chung, M. C. (2001). Mastery or mystery? Therapeutic writing: a review of the literature. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 29 (3), 277-291.
Dorlee Michaeli, MBA, LMSW, is a social worker consultant. For the Center for Financial Social Work, she helps educate social workers and community advocates on how to help their clients develop a better relationship with money, so they may improve their financial circumstances. For the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, she provides coaching on how to employ social media to enhance their brand awareness and social work practice. Dorlee is also the creator and editor of the Social Work Career blog. She earned an MBA in marketing from Fordham University and an MSW from NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. You can learn more about Dorlee at www.SocialWork.Career or by following her on twitter at @SWcareer.