Heather Casstevens Moeller's therapy journals

Therapy journals help participants de-stress and have fun

While it seems that many kids can’t wait to grow up, adults have experienced a resurgence of nostalgic, child-like activities marketed to help them relax, de-stress, and reconnect with their inner child. For example, recently there’s been a huge explosion of interest in adult coloring books, available at brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Noble and online.

“A lot of us have really lost touch with what it feels like to sit down and have fun,” says Heather Casstevens Moeller, licensed professional counselor and founder of Simply Mindful Therapy. “I think the adult coloring book movement was born from the idea that we need to get adults to a place where they’re having fun again.”

However, while coloring can be fun, mindful, and soothing, when it comes to mental health, Heather says coloring doesn’t require the critical thinking or problem-solving skills needed to work through issues and reach a state of well-being. “I wanted something for my participants that would not only put them into a beautiful flow state but would also combine creativity with problem-solving—a collaborative keeper item that people could hold onto and be proud of.”

Since there was nothing quite like what she was looking for on the market, Heather began crafting her own handmade therapeutic journals, incorporating different textures, scents, and visual stimuli so that the journals are multisensory. Realizing that the process of making the journal plays a key part in the therapy journal’s effectiveness, she refined the technique and began offering therapy journal workshops to small groups of people.

Heather Casstevens Moeller

Today she continues to lead individuals and small groups through the 4- to 6-hour interactive journaling process, which includes creating the journals, working through participants’ mental and emotional health issues, and teaching participants problem-resolution strategies that they can use going forward.

“These journals are not meant to replace long-term therapy—there are some people who require something above and beyond a therapy journal, and for them, it’s part of a multi-front approach—but it could be exactly what other people need. It helps settle down that emotional thunderstorm that’s happening in the right hemisphere of the brain and integrate it with the more rational left hemisphere,” she says.

During Heather’s therapy journal workshops, she guides participants in creating their own journals, from choosing the fabric and stretching it over sheaths of cardboard to make the book covers, to creating and assembling the pages, to hand-binding the book with beautiful braided ties.

Heather leads participants through a series of modules that teach problem-solving strategies such as pausing in the moment, practicing mindfulness, and understanding the differences between worrying and thinking. Each lesson is followed by a craft—like creating elaborate pop-up trees and hand-sewn pockets—that not only adds to the character of the journal but also helps participants recall information they learned during the modules.

Heather Casstevens Moeller with her journal

For example, after the lesson about worrying versus thinking, participants are instructed to create a 3D pop-up vortex out of black textured paper, with the words “Depression drags you back into regret” and “anxiety spins you into a terrifying future.” This helps them visualize unhelpful ways of thinking about a problem. Other activities model helpful thought processes.

“Journaling isn’t a new concept. I mean, think of cave drawings,” says Heather. “For whatever reason, it feels really good to have this internal process represented on something we can keep and look at again and again. It’s relaxing, therapeutic, and what’s more, it’s fun!”

For more information on therapy journals, or to connect with Heather through her counseling business, Simply Mindful Therapy, visit www.simplymindfultherapy.com.

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