An interview with Lucia Capacchione, PhD, author of The Creative Journal
If you picture someone who writes in a scrapbook journal, you might envision a love-struck teenage girl. But self-therapy pioneer Dr. Lucia Capacchione wants you to know there is more to journal writing than “Dear Diary.” Regardless of your age or gender, keeping a journal is a powerful tool for discovering and releasing your inner potential.
What is creative journal-keeping?
It’s a method that is based in art therapy principles. Art therapy is an approach to psychology in which the client draws pictures from the unconscious – it’s like having a dream on paper. The client draws images, shapes or abstract designs that represent their emotions, and their thoughts and feelings. With the creative journal I teach people to draw out on paper what is going on inside, and then they write about it. There are some written exercises in my book but most of them start with some sort of visual expression.
The creative journal not only helps people express what’s going on in their lives, it also encourages them to use their imagination to create what they do want. And that’s the difference in a creative journal because most journals and diaries are simply a record of what’s going on. Another significant difference is that I include art, which most diarists don’t do. (By the way, including art doesn’t require any talent.) I also encourage people to create a vision of their future, as well as one of the present and the past.
What might we discover about ourselves through keeping a journal as you suggest?
People do discover their emotions that they’ve been afraid to feel. Drawing accesses the part of the brain that has our emotional expression centers in it. The right brain has areas that govern our emotional expressiveness. So people who have a hard time feeling their emotions or expressing themselves have little access to that part of the brain. The right side of the brain -- being the visual, spatial side -- is also the side of the brain that governs our ability to express through art, through visual images, through photography. And when we use the drawing technique, that gets us into that area of the brain and it allows us to express emotions much more directly. The other thing this method can do is help people get through creative blocks. There’s an exercise in the book that I created when I was trying to write that book. It’s where I answer back to my inner critic. Answering back is one technique, and writing with your non-dominant hand is a very powerful technique. It opens up the inner child in you, as well as the emotional self and the creative self.
What is needed to keep a journal?
Anyone who can write or draw or make any marks on paper can keep a creative journal, even children and teens. For materials, all you really need is blank book, preferably 8-1/2 x 11, that is unlined. I recommend either a hardback diary or a spiral-bound sketchpad, and a set of felt pens in an assortment of colors. You can also use crayons for some of the exercises, but I recommend using colored felt pens so you can write and draw with the same pen.
What is the most important thing to remember about creative scrapbook journaling?
I’m a therapist but I know of no better tool for mental health than keeping a journal because you have complete control over it. You have it at all times, and you can write or draw in it whenever you want -- when you’re struggling with a challenge, when you’re setting goals, when you’re planning your life and career. It’s a fantastic way to set goals and assess who you are in life, and go after it. It’s a great tool for self-responsibility and for people to get to know themselves. You learn to become your own best friend and you have a dialog with yourself. If you keep a journal you then start to set goals and take yourself seriously. You become accountably for your own dreams. The creative journal enables you to do that. Lots of people think life happens to them, but it really doesn’t; they happen to life.