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The Benefits of Journaling: Helping Clients to Discover Themselves

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In our charge as a coach, we are asked to help clients break past barriers and help them achieve a desired level of success. This is usually done through deep, probing questions with the intent to have the client find the answers they seek within. While we, as the coach, can see the progress clients are making, it is often times difficult for clients to do so. Not just the overt changes, like changing jobs or losing weight. But the deeper changes, i.e. the cognitive shifts that tap into their strengths and takes them from following to leading. When they get to this level, what they‘ve uncovered is what will sustain them for the rest of their life. Getting clients to be aware of these shifts and the greatness uncovered is the hard part. Affirming their newfound thought and action patterns is great, as is asking the client to write their ―wins on their weekly coach call sheet. But is this enough?

One technique I firmly believe in and recommend to my clients is journaling. Journaling is a technique taken from the therapeutic world but it has implications across many fields. Therapists use it to help clients to tap into their thoughts and feelings from a psychoanalytic perspective. Authors use journaling to keep ideas or story lines in order to capture them as they appear. Adolescents keep them in the form of a diary. Journals can take the shape of hardbound books, notebooks, or small pocketsize spirals. You can use your cell phone‘s voice recorder to capture your thoughts on the go. Whatever the form, a journal can be the key to unlocking the mind.

It has many benefits, which include: it captures thoughts and feelings that you may want to hold on to it can help you release angry or unhappy feelings without hurting anyone‘s feelings it can help in making important decisions it can help you say goodbye to a loved one it can help you reaffirm your goodness it can unleash your creative side it can record your personal growth.

There are many benefits for clients to use journaling as a tool toward their personal or professional development. Journaling can be what they want it to be. It is for their eyes only, so they don‘t have to worry about yelling, cursing, or saying some of the things they would like to say but can‘t. It is meant to be a forum for them to express themselves through self-reflection, which can be very therapeutic and cathartic. Journaling can help a client to discover themselves – who they are, how they feel, and why they do the things they do (or don‘t do). Journaling does not always have to be about the written word, as one can express their feelings through drawing or through writing songs or poetry. One can capture a journey taken, such as a job-hunt or when getting married or divorced.

Journaling can help a client resolve the past and give them hope for the future, all the while helping the client truly know who they are. Is there a trick to journaling? Not exactly; there are steps that may make it easier and more engaging for your clients to start the process.

Here are some questions to act as a guide for your clients:
1. Decide how you will journal – book, spiral, computer, tape recorder or voice recorder on cell phone, art, music. Choose a way that will make it easy for you to express yourself when the need arises.
2. Decide when you will write – it is often helpful, at least when you start to journal, if you set aside time for when, and how often, you will write. Once a day is the preferred, but you may find that you need to write every other day, once a week or, if you have some issues you are struggling with, several times a day. Setting a schedule will get you in the habit.
3. Practice mindfulness – prepare to open your mind to the experience of writing; meditate, pray, use yoga breathing, visualize, affirm – whatever will open up your mind and emotions.
4. Create a flowing atmosphere – pick a place that is quiet and relaxing; a place that allows you to breathe and dig deep. This may be in your bedroom after the kids have gone to bed or on your back porch as the sun is setting—however, you need to or have the time to write, such as when you are sitting in traffic or waiting at the dentist‘s office.
5. Free write – don‘t get bogged down in the format or getting it right‘; write whatever feelings or thoughts come to mind. Write when you feel like it. If drawing or ―doodling‖ strike you, do it. There is no right or wrong here. The key is to express your feelings.
6. Review – look over your writings periodically; it will help you gauge any progress you have made, help you make sense of any decisions you are struggling with, and help you become more clear on who you are and where you are going
7. Share – if you feel comfortable, share your journal writings with your coach who can help to process, to clarify and to validate the breakthroughs and successes you have achieved.

Journaling captures on paper what clients think in their heads. It gives them a vehicle to silently express their thoughts and feelings and allows for feedback. Journaling is a powerful resource to add to your coaching toolbox.

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