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Proprioceptive Writing - How can this help?

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

There is evidence that narrative identity writing can help with career coaching and anxiety reduction.

A study by Lengelle and Meijer offered insights into how writing exercises and approaches can be applied to help students create career stories which encourages learning about career direction. Creating a narrative story can help with decision making, learning and personal development.

Journaling has been used for a number of years to help people align thought processes with much research on expressive and creative writing for anxiety reduction.

A study on Undergraduate Nurses by Joely Tara Goodman found that journaling decreased their anxiety in clinical settings

More recently Proprioceptive Writing has been adopted by Coaches to help clients create a narrative based on their thoughts and externalize what they are thinking.

What is Proprioceptive Writing?

Proprioceptive Writing is writing down all thoughts during a set period of time. Usually 20 minutes, however in a coaching session you can bring this down to 10 minutes for review time within the hour. This creates an awareness of thoughts, pictures, emotions and ideas which your client has and externalises them for the client to review. This can be done with you as the Coach, reflecting back what you are hearing after the exercise.

There are 3 parts to Proprioceptive Writing:

1. Write down what you hear.

Everything. For that period of time keep writing. Even if it is “I don’t know what to write”. Anything which comes into the client’s head. Thoughts can be like voices and sometimes there is another thought behind the original narrative. Writing this all down can uncover hidden thoughts and meanings for discussion. This can also help with resolution of issues.

2. Listen to what you write.

Ask the client to read back what they have written after the 10/ 20 minute period (internally if they prefer). Ask them to listen to what they have written. Are there any questions arising?

3. Ask yourself: What do I mean by…?

Ask the client to listen to what they have written and candidly respond to this question. As a Coach you can also help them with this question. This can sometimes uncover other hidden meanings and questions which the client may want to ask themselves and answer.

Some clients like to carry out the 20 minute sessions themselves at home and this can help with further self reflection between sessions. Some people like to accompany the writing with slow, relaxing music to help flow while they are writing.

Proprioceptive Writing is still relatively new, but is being used as a complementary practice to help people listen to their thoughts with empathy, curiosity and reflect on them in writing.

Caroline Langston is the Founder of Successful Consultants Ltd, an executive, personal and career development coaching company in Hong Kong, with her partner Patrick Bennett founding the practice in New York. She is also the Founder of a nonprofit providing free information and coaching to people who are unemployed. Caroline is dedicated to coaching people for success and happiness in their careers and lives. She is a Certified Professional Coach at International Coaching Federation standards. Certified Team Coach and is also degree qualified with further certifications in Neuro Linguistic Programming at Master Practitioner and Coach level.


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