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Positive outcomes of teen journaling

Lynn Blinn Pike, Ph.D., former Human Development & Family Studies Specialist, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia


Increased Self-Understanding

Increased self-understanding is one of the positive outcomes for teens that keep journals. Increased self-understanding means:


  • being aware of one's level of control over life events;
  • being aware of the uniqueness of one's life experiences;
  • being aware of one's own personal life course; and
  • reflecting on one's life in the past, present and future.


Journaling has been shown to help children who have been sexually abused; who have grown up in families where the parents have serious mental illness, such as depression; and who have experienced poverty and disadvantaged backgrounds. It has been shown to be a beneficial tool for individuals suffering from posttraumatic stress, panic attacks, eating disorders, insomnia, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Involving Teens in Journaling

Journaling is appealing to teens, and particularly girls because it can take many forms, such as writing, drawing, making collages, sketching, collecting newspaper clippings, taking photos, painting, etc. As such, journaling can help adolescents use their imaginations and creative talents to improve their communication skills, and to realize self-interests and possibilities for the future. In journaling, multiple methods and strategies can be used to foster:


  • a healthy release of feelings and tensions,
  • a way to gain perspective on emotions and resolve the past,
  • an outlet for increasing creativity, and
  • a path to self-awareness and self-knowledge.

Some of the skills that are taught within journaling are:


  • guided imagery and meditation,
  • writing a dialogue between yourself and the person(s) with whom you are angry or frustrated,
  • writing letters to the person(s) with whom you are angry or frustrated that are never mailed,
  • drawing and scribbling as a release of tension,
  • drawing oneself and others in cartoon form and then writing a cartoon-like dialogue,
  • rewriting previous life experiences in a way that expresses what you wish had happened, and
  • periodically reviewing previous journal entries to gain new insight into how situations were handled in the past and how they can be handled in the present.


Journal writing involves willful and deliberate action. The action-oriented nature of journaling can help teens feel confident and in control of their lives. For teens who are unable to act in some area of their lives, writing can be a substitute practice session for acting. By using journaling to imagine and create worst-case scenarios, plan and try out strategies, envision taking the necessary steps toward recovery, and make these events happen on paper, teens gain the confidence to carry these actions through into their lives.


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Last Updated 12/08/2016