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Journal to the Self: Twenty-Two Paths to Personal Growth - Open the Door to Self-Understanding by Writing, Reading, and Creating a Journal of Your Life

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A nationally known therapist provides a powerful tool for better living--a step-by-step method to personal growth, creative expression, and career enhancement through journal writing.

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Kathleen Adams

19 books17 followers
Kathleen (Kay) Adams LPC is a best-selling author, speaker, psychotherapist and visionary. Her first book, Journal to the Self, is a classic that has helped define the field of journal therapy.

She has also written The Write Way to Wellness: A Workbook for Healing and Change, The Way of the Journal , Mightier Than the Sword , and Scribing the Soul.

Kay is a beloved teacher whose innovative work has helped hundreds of thousands of people heal, change and grow. Her dynamic presentation style is fluid, clinically grounded, intuitive and engaging. She is the voice of journal therapy at conferences, hospitals, mental health agencies and seminars around the world. A tireless advocate for the healing power of writing, Kay is a three-time recipient of the National Association for Poetry Therapy’s Distinguished Service Award. She was a finalist for the first Season for Nonviolence Peacemaker Award in Colorado for her work bringing journal therapy to populations as diverse as people with HIV/AIDS, breast cancer survivors, recovering addicts, and survivors of violent crime.

In an About.com poll, Kathleen Adams was listed (with Anais Nin and Anne Frank) as one of the three most significant influences on contemporary journal keeping.

Professional Profile
With more than 40,000 clinical hours in the field, Kathleen Adams is among the most experienced and respected journal therapists working today.

Clinical Experience

1985-present: Founder/Director, The Center for Journal Therapy, Wheat Ridge, CO
1992-present: Private psychotherapy practice with specialty in journal/poetry therapy, Wheat Ridge, CO
1994-2008: Contract journal therapist, Denver Health and Hospitals, HIV/AIDS team
1990-1992: Journal therapist, The National Center for the Treatment of Dissociative Disorders, Denver CO
1988-1990: Group therapist and unit counselor, West Pines Psychiatric Hospital, Wheat Ridge CO
Education and Licensure

MM/S (Master Mentor/Supervisor, designated by National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy [NFBPT] as a trainer of mentor/supervisors), 2007
M/S (Mentor/Supervisor, designated by NFBPT as a trainer/supervisor of certified applied poetry facilitators, certified poetry therapists and registered poetry therapists, 2000
PTR (Registered Poetry/Journal Therapist), 2000
LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), 1993
MA, Psychology and Counseling, Boulder Graduate School, Boulder CO, 1988
BA, Journalism, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins CO, 1972
Awards and Achievements

Board of Directors, National Association for Poetry Therapy (NAPT), 1993-2007; pesident, 2001-2003
Board of Directors, NAPT Foundation, 1997-2001; president 1997-2001
Board of Directors, National Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy, 2003-2008; president, 2005-2006
NAPT’s Distinguished Service Award, 1998, 2003, 2005
Peacemaker Award (finalist), 1998, A Season for Nonviolence

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5 stars
361 (36%)
4 stars
344 (34%)
3 stars
208 (20%)
2 stars
74 (7%)
1 star
15 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews
Profile Image for Sericite (Kim).
12 reviews3 followers
January 11, 2013
It was OK. The journaling ideas were fantastic. However, many of the stories and examples were extremely new-agey. If you are willing to call your journal your "blood brother" or sprit friend or whatever, then you will love this. If you are more plain & practical like me, you'll appreciate the tips while gritting your teeth at the fuzziness.
Profile Image for Tatiana Kim.
202 reviews16 followers
May 15, 2018
я очень хочу заняться фрирайтингом и ведением дневника (нескольких дневников) на постоянной основе и регулярно ищу вдохновение в книгах. фрирайтинг отлично разгружает голову и лечит панические атаки (у меня). эта книга вроде бы норм, но примеры из жизни крайне негативные. я понимаю, что это как раз те ситуации из которых дневник помогает выбраться, но читать тяжело. очень понравилась тема со списками 100 целей, 100 причин.
Profile Image for Shelly.
220 reviews15 followers
August 2, 2009
What I learned from this book is that there are no rules when it comes to personal journal writing. This one aspect has made the idea of keeping my own journal less daunting.

A good book for beginning journalers... it lists some guidelines for keeping a journal, a list of items one may want to collect for their jounal tool box, and a series of ideas/exercises to get the writing flowing.

I'm still in the beginning phases of my own journal, but I can't wait to try some of the Lists of 100 as well as some of the other prompts/exercises she talks about.

Profile Image for Olga.
61 reviews16 followers
December 4, 2013
A staple. An absolute must for anyone who already journals or likes to journal.

Do you usually journal by simply putting on paper whatever comes to mind at the moment? Read this book.



I kept a journal since I was a teenager but at some point I stopped. Perhaps, I decided that living my life takes too much time and I have no time to write about it. I have come to regret this decision recently and I came back to journaling. The beginning of this book made me long for keeping a journal again - and the author described picking out a journal so lovingly that I found myself running out to a bookstore (mind me, in a foreign country!) to purchase one.

The rest of the book is a writing shop. Pick out the interesting technique of writing or even a journaling project that could last for two weeks minimum and go! The instructions are clear and complete with ore-writing meditations for those of us who need to concentrate a little bit before starting to write.

I personally use the techniques sparingly, coming to them spontaneously when I feel that I need them - but if I didn't know about them how would I be able to?

I would highly recommend this book to those who only "just write" in their journals and need to add some zing to their journaling lives. In addition, if you are a bit afraid of what you may unleash if you just sit and write what's stewing up in you and yet you want to write and stay safe, this is the book for you. You will be able to decide how far, how deep, and how long you will go with any given journal entry.
Profile Image for Harshita Choudhary.
24 reviews12 followers
April 2, 2021
On prompts and ways to journal, to dip into the conscious as well as subconscious. Some of the techniques are definitely worth exploring.
Profile Image for Vitaly Barilo.
10 reviews
August 21, 2019
Unfortunately, Journal to the Self didn’t age well. From the technical perspective, we have a lot of devices now where you can journal, take photos, save locations. Do it semi-automatically, make templates.
I know there is something therapeutical about writing with pen and paper, but you could read a couple of blog posts to get some ideas for writing.
It says it will help your career enhancement and grow personally, but most of this book is very negative - alcoholics, deaths, problems, abuse. I understand that journaling could especially help in those situation, but some positive examples would be nice.
Regarding the technics - if you ever tried to journal, my guess would be, you’ve tried almost all of them. You probably didn’t have the name of the technic, but I don’t think it matters.
I think today you are better off just starting writing the journal today, reading some blogs about journaling or picking Day One course or something similar and don’t waste your time on this book.
Profile Image for Ashok Krishna.
333 reviews51 followers
January 21, 2018
A nice guidebook for aspiring and novice journal writers, especially in the context of exploring one's inner thoughts through the process of writing journals. Tad slow at times. But a good guide overall.
Profile Image for Олена Осіпова.
107 reviews6 followers
November 9, 2021
Другій підхід до книжки був більш вдалий - я її дочитала. В принципі, книжка містить багато цікавих вправ, які можна використовувати для ведення свого щоенника (і як результат - до самопізнання). Що безнадійно застаріло (для мене) - її підходи до ведення щоденника руками. Я давно перейшла на щоденник в телефоні. І навіть коли пишу щось руками (такі щоденники також є), то все одно потім переношу написане руками в електронний формат. І система тегів працює краще за будь-які перехресні посилання. Створення резервних копій, можливість викачати в формат пдф, зберегти на мережевих дисках, роздрукувати і підшити... Коротше, частина порад авторки (вибір блокноту, ручки, системи перехресних посилань, маркери і т.п.) для мене вже трошки застаріла, а от вправи - прикольні і цікаві.
Profile Image for sari.
92 reviews4 followers
October 3, 2021
Journal therapy, writing for self-development. The first section was quite repetitive and redundant, but the techniques described and exemplified in the second section are excellent. My favourites were the character sketch, 100 items lists, the steppingstones, topics du jour and perspectives. I'm also very curious about the suggested reading the author added at the end which includes other people's published journals. Can't wait to put it into practice.
Profile Image for Denis Vasilev.
605 reviews86 followers
September 7, 2018
Неплохая книга с советами по ведению личного дневника - фокус на психотерапевтию, но есть идеи и для других целей, в том числе бизнеса.
Profile Image for Tara.
206 reviews1 follower
March 4, 2008
A simple text, but I think a classic. When I give journal workshops at my local library, this is the main text I use to gather up potential exercises (and they're all fun!) I've also had Kathleen Adams as a teacher in grad school and she's a beautiful human being. It was perhaps one of the most fulfilling cycles in my life when I was consistently working with her coursework, which included the workbook version of this text.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,172 reviews1,027 followers
February 24, 2016
When I first bought this, about 10 years ago, I disliked enough I leant it to someone and didn't see it for years. Having just got this back, now I appreciate it. There's a lot of specific techniques for introspective journaling. Strangely, what worked for me was the suggestion for 'Time Capsule' journaling - a basic and straightforward account of our day to day lives - in addition to more emotional and thoughtful work.

A useful book I will return to again.
1 review
August 12, 2016
As someone with an ever-growing interest in and love for journaling, I really liked this book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to further their connections with themselves or even just gain a new perspective on journaling and to see what it can do for a person.
Profile Image for Rift Vegan.
329 reviews60 followers
September 28, 2008
I re-read this book every once in a while to give my journal a boost. Simple and straight-forward, lots of ideas to get you pen moving.
Profile Image for CinnamonWolf.
142 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2018
This was one of those impulse reads. Saw it added to a friend's to read list and somehow ended up reading it immediately. Given the new age title, not sure what I was expecting. Sounded self help + new age and that is what it delivered.

It sure provides interesting ideas of what one can try when journaling, but all the fluff around it was bothering me. I already mentioned the new age flavor of it. In addition, there wasn't always a clear structure, or clear reasoning, or examples. The latter were an especially confusing bit. Some of them did the job of illustrating the point, but some absolutely didn't. Some looked oversimplified and some were way too long and convoluted. I do understand the reasoning for using real journal entries from real people and I'm sure all of them were used with permission, yet I couldn't stop feeling creepy. Finally, I simply cannot take anyone seriously after they use the left-brain right-brain nonsense as a fact. Distortion of scientific findings is a pet peeve of mine and this particular one has been and still is so pervasive I sometimes want to scream.

This was published in 1990 so don't be surprised if it is quite outdated. Psychology and psychotherapy have traveled far and wide in the last quarter century, "us baby boomers" doesn't apply to a lot of "us" anymore, and while many people still love the feel of writing on paper electronic journaling has its fans and advantages.

To end on a positive note, the author added "church addiction" to a list of parents' addictions that have a bad impact on children. Finally someone said it!
Profile Image for Stephen.
4 reviews1 follower
December 19, 2021
Provides a good overview of thirteen journal entry types: Springboards, Character Sketch, Cluttering, Captured Moments, Dialogue, Lists, Stream of Consciousness, Steppingstones, Time capsules, Topics du Jour, Unsent Letters, Perspectives and Dreams and Imagery.

While the techniques are broadly applicable, the examples and the framing are very much toward a particular audience: middle to older journalers looking for self-therapy. Many other readers will benefit from this book, but would be advised to skim over most of the examples.

Kathleen sums this up in Section III: "We baby-boomers are a generation of adult children who are choosing to break the chains of our familial dysfunction. The tasks of working through long-stored grief, healing childhood wounds, and recovering from dysfunctional families of origin are perhaps the most prevalent—and painful—therapeutic issues of the late 20th century."

The journaling described in the book is all pen and paper, with no reference to digital journals, but I did not feel this was a major defect - the principle is largely the same using OneNote, Evernote, Word docs or however else you wish to organise your entries.
Profile Image for Plumb.
107 reviews4 followers
September 23, 2022
I opened this on a whim and expected it to be fluff, but I think it has some really useful ideas in here that I'm looking forward to playing with. I've kept a journal for a number of years but it's been a hodgepodged affair. Being a digital journal I can use tags to organise it, and a search function. These are two elements that I would find useful to be explored if there were an updated version of this book. But, even so, the prompts and ideas here are valuable ideas, I think, for self-exploration and self-awareness, and spotting trends in a life that can go unnoticed, willfully or otherwise.

The techniques I am most interested in from this book are: dialogues, character sketches, lists, time capsules, stepping stones, unsent letters, and perspectives. The book has interesting examples of how each of these might be used, or mixed together.

The dream section didn't add much new for me except for one idea which I like a lot, which is to give each dream a title of its own and to keep a list of those titles so you can see how they change over time. That sounds enjoyable and informative and I wouldn't have thought of it myself. The book has a number of good ideas like that.
Profile Image for Bren.
75 reviews12 followers
January 9, 2021
So far I have really enjoyed this book. However, I don't agree with some of it. I'm an avid journaler of ten years myself so it's nice to see people appreciate their journals and call them friends like I do. One example that I didn't particularly agree with was stream of consciousness writing. Adams made it seem more like a prompt for creative writing. She also linked stream of conscious writing to dialogues which I understand to an extent, but dialogues are primarily used to have a conversation with someone/something in her examples. Maybe I have a different view of stream of consciousness because making it creative isn't my ideal. As well as using dialogues to get to the point of the problem. I just word dump, and that helps me just as much.

I do think this is a great book to understand how therapeutic journaling can be, and ways you can make it your own. Even though I didn't agree with some of her concepts, I did appreciate the effort into different ways to journal.
Profile Image for Tedra.
31 reviews2 followers
April 23, 2018
3.75 stars. I think the author did a good job digging deep into why journaling is good for you and I enjoyed all the options and ways there are to journal. I am not giving this a higher rating because a lot of the chapters didn't really resonate with me. I will refer to this book to get ideas on how to switch up my journal writings and get the most out of the practice (which is fully the intent of the book, and my reading it), but I do feel like if I didn't pick it up again, I wouldn't necessarily remember much about the book or any particular techniques that stood out to me. Perhaps that's just where I am in my reading life, haha. May update this review in the future, too soon to tell...
Note: Skipped Chapter 6 (Men Only).
August 29, 2019
A useful text if you don't need rationale or few examples. This inventory of journalling strategies is a good summary of the many options for using writing for therapeutic inquiry. It is itself, however, not an example of engaging writing (nor is it meant to be). It is well organized but I wonder - if this is a first read for anyone considering journalling whether they would actually pick up a pen or put finger to a keyboard. I am also concerned that the book does not address ethical issues related to the use of emotive strategies. It was first published in the infancy of therapeutic writing, a field K. Adams has made a considerable contribution to in the intervening years.
75 reviews5 followers
September 26, 2017
I loved this.

I mostly expected Journal to the Self to be full of platitudes about how great and inspiring journal writing is. I would agree with that sentiment so I thought I'd read it to get me motivated to pick up my own notebook again. However, I found many practical techniques that I've already put to good use alongside all my newly found inspiration and motivation.

There are quite a few anecdotes too and sometimes I wasn't sure if it was the writer or a guest / journaling-course-past-student who was writing. That was a bit curious but I could have easily checked if I'd been fussed.
Profile Image for Klaasje.
46 reviews21 followers
December 29, 2017
3,5 eigenlijk, want prima boek over therapeutisch schrijven. De laatste 2 of 3 hoofdstukjes heb ik overgeslagen want herhalend en niet van toepassing op mij. De schrijfster geeft praktische voorbeelden van mogelijke journal entries, zoals het beroemde schrijven van een brief die je niet gaat versturen, maar ook de dialoog en profielschets. Die laatste sprak me erg aan, net zoals een paar andere voorbeelden. Voor iemand die echt nieuw is met het bijhouden van een dagboek dat verder gaat dan een overzicht van de dag is dit een goudmijn.
Profile Image for Maria Sviridova.
162 reviews
Read
December 21, 2022
Я думаю, это хорошая книга "по запросу". Если есть запрос, и нет понимания - эта книга даст вам его. У меня есть запрос, нет финального понимания, но мне интереснее найти его самостоятельно, чем применять к своим нуждам набор практик, как-то помогших другим людям. Минус еще, что большое внимание уделяется именно бумажным дневникам, которые, безусловно, имеют свою прелесть, и все же не совсем отвечают требованиям времени в плане стремительности жизни. Мне книга не подошла, но я уверена, что она найдет своего читателя, так или иначе.
Profile Image for Nicole.
85 reviews
October 23, 2017
I think this book is very useful, and I’ll keep it in my arsenal. I am a huge fan of journaling. It helps me clear my head, sort through problems, and release my anger and frustration. However, it’s hard to read front to back. I probably read 1/2 to 2/3 of it and then skimmed the rest to read the holds that caught my eye. I’ll keep it for future ones if I need help journaling, especially for rereading unsent letters
Profile Image for Semina.
260 reviews23 followers
October 14, 2019
As someone who has been journaling since I was 8, I didn't really find this groundbreaking. This book is for someone who wants to start journaling for various reasons but feels intimidated. It contains different methods which are helpful for beginners.

I was kinda looking for something a little more advanced.
2 reviews
April 23, 2020
I have found the tools in this book to be therapeutic and enlightening! I have been skeptical of the exercises, but find myself pleasantly surprised with the outcome every time, particularly when I do the dialogue meditation and journaling activity. I see this being a highly valuable tool for my personal growth and overcoming anxiety and depression.
Profile Image for Julia.
23 reviews
November 6, 2021
I love the topic of journaling, but it's dated, references a bunch of psych stuff on a surface level (made it less accessible to read), and spends a lot of time referencing someone else's work. I ended up skimming the last few chapters that were just essays by people talking about why they liked journaling. That said, a lot of different ideas and prompts for someone who likes to journal.
21 reviews
June 5, 2022
Неплохая книга. Может подойти для ведения дневников. Но вот как-то все очень общо. Писать могут все. Можно писать вот так и вот так. Жизнь улучшилась и это благодаря дневнику. Пишите!

Можно было бы и покороче! ;)
Profile Image for Babs.
543 reviews9 followers
October 9, 2022
This book is quite dated now but still contains useful tools for anyone wanting to start or expand a journaling habit.

Focuses quite a lot on alcoholic and adult children of alcoholics which may be triggering for some.
Profile Image for Anton Shanaurin.
242 reviews11 followers
January 13, 2023
Хорошая книжка о том, как вести дневник с возможными упражнениями. Не знаю, воспользуюсь ли я ими, но было полезно и я начал снова писать дневник, что тоже неплохо. Самое главное правило - никаких правил, а потом разберусь, что к чему и, возможно, вернусь к ней.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 93 reviews

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