Journaling as a Transformational Coaching Tool (How to with 5 Keys to Success) | Lynda Monk

Client in orange sweater journal coaching at desk with laptop showing Journaling as a Coaching Tool

As a coach, we need to have powerful tools for transformation in our coaching toolkit. And one of my favourite tools for personal growth, well-being and cultivating new insights is journaling.

I use this transformational practice both in my own life and in my coaching work with clients. For me, journaling is more than a tool: I consider it central to my "Journal Coaching" work with clients.

What is Journal Coaching?

While Journaling is a storytelling practice, a reflective practice, a healing practice and personal growth practice all in one.

Journal Coaching focuses on using journaling as the key tool for helping clients increase self-awareness and take inspired action aligned with their values, dreams and goals.

Which means you are Journal Coaching whenever you use journaling in a session to help clients express their thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences through language and personal story.

When to use Journaling in Coaching

I use Journal Coaching with individual clients and groups and in workshops and retreats. It helps clients deepen their skills in the areas of self-reflection, goal setting and decision making.

For example, it can be helpful to use journaling as a coaching tool when a client wants to:

  • Gain insight for a life decision
  • Find more clarity in some area of their life
  • Develop confidence and learn to trust their own inner wisdom
  • Get a sense of direction
  • Deeply know, grow and care for themselves through personal writing

We human beings have both a hunger and a fundamental need to listen to our inner worlds while paying attention to our outer worlds, in order to enhance our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being. As simple or complex as this may sound, it is a learned skill to attend to one's inner life and to practice the art of self-awareness. 1

Why use Journaling as a Coaching Tool

There are many reasons to use journaling as a coaching tool. For example, journaling helps your clients:

  • Slow down, pause and reflect in a meaningful way
  • Access greater inner wisdom, clarity and insights
  • Process thoughts and feelings
  • Tap into feelings of calm and inner peace
  • Feel more inspired and motivated
  • Tend to self-care in nourishing and replenishing ways
  • Listen to the whispers of truth and well-being within
  • Attune more fully with present moment awareness where all things are possible

Journal writing helps clients remember their own resilience and inner resources, including their deep well of wisdom within. It also reminds clients that they are creative, resourceful and whole, and they are always the experts on their own lived experiences.

And it's important to remember that journaling is an empowering practice: whatever your clients write is right.

Here are 5 Keys to Successful Journal Coaching

1. Try journaling yourself first

Be sure you have some first-hand experience with journaling before you bring it into your coaching.

Journaling is a subtle and profound practice that can bring a lot of information and emotion forth for our clients. It's good to have a felt experience of this as a coach as it will make sharing journaling as a coaching tool more helpful and effective for your clients.

2. Explain what transformational journaling is and why you're suggesting it as a coaching tool

Briefly explain to clients what transformational journaling (sometimes called therapeutic journaling) is, and share some of the many benefits it can offer.

I love this definition by Kate Thompson, author of Therapeutic Journal Writing: An Introduction for Professionals. The bolding is my own for emphasis and she says:

Therapeutic (transformational) journal writing implies the conscious intent and deliberate attempt to write in ways which will produce change, healing and growth. It is reflective (thinking about, pondering, exploring) and a reflexive (integrating and using the awareness gained from reflecting) practice which can help with greater understanding of the self and the world and the self-in-the world.

This type of journaling is about both awareness and action.

Writing helps our clients explore their thoughts and feelings; this generates greater self-awareness, which can be the foundation for taking action that is grounded in the authentic wisdom from within.

3. Offer guided journaling activities

Take your clients through some guided Journal Coaching experiences so they can use their journaling as a key tool for growth.

It's very helpful to facilitate a guided journaling session with journaling prompts so that clients have some direction when going to the page for growth and transformation. This is more effective than simply suggesting that a client journal.

Kathleen Adams, an expert in journal therapy, teaches that three things are very important when using journaling: structure, pacing and containment.

All three elements can be achieved through the types of journaling techniques and exercises you suggest to clients.2

For example, free writing without a time limit and no journaling prompt has no pacing and little structure or containment. On the other hand, a timed writing using a journaling prompt that flows from areas you're exploring with your client in your coaching with them offers all three.

How to offer structure and containment with journaling prompts

To be most effective, journaling prompts should be relevant to the client. So if you're working with your client in the area of their health and wellness, you might offer the following journaling prompts for your client to pick from:

  • When you think of your self-care at this time in your life, what do you notice? How do you feel?
  • How do you nourish your emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual well-being?
  • What are your self-care practices in each of these key dimensions of holistic well-being?
  • What parts of your self-care are you proud of and feeling good about?
  • What about your self-care is calling to you for more attention?
  • What would be deeply nourishing to you at this time?

4. Use your client's journal writing as content within your coaching

When integrating journaling into your coaching, it's always important to give your clients choice. In other words, there should never be any forced sharing of their writing.

However, you can provide options and invite your client to share:

  • What they wrote
  • A line or two or a small section of what they wrote
  • What it was like to do the writing

As the coach, you're actively listening and receiving what they share.

Do not critique the writing in any way, but simply receive it as information for the coaching you're doing. 

5. Explore new insights and possible action steps that flow from their journaling

Finally, to make Journal Coaching truly effective, it's important to reflect—and maybe even take action.

Ask the client:

  • What they notice about what they wrote
  • What insights or new awareness might have emerged from their journaling
  • What action, if any, they would like to take in the direction of their goals flowing from these insights

There is a Spanish proverb which says: there is no road, we make the road as we walk. I would say the same thing about journal writing—we make the path as we write. Christina Baldwin


Journal Coaching is fun, creative and hugely beneficial for our clients.

You make journaling a coaching tool by treating it in a thoughtful, strategic, heart-centered and useful way within your coaching.

So I invite you to play with the many possibilities, benefits and breakthroughs that journaling can offer in your coaching—and in your own life as a coach.

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We are a journaling community dedicated to helping people better their lives and our world through going to the page. Joining the IAJW offers community, free resources and much, much more like:

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  • Plus, receive The Great Journaling Journey Course FREE (value $67.00) when you become a member!

SPECIAL NOTE: Dr. Eric Maisel and Lynda are launching a NEW program, The Art of Journal Coaching, in October 2023. Take a deep dive into how to facilitate journal coaching for life-changing results. If you would like to hear more about this program when further details become available, please use Lynda's contact form here and she will send more information your way. Thank you.


Lynda Monk Headshot

Contributing Author:

Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing. Lynda regularly writes, speaks, and teaches about the transformational and healing power of writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection (2014), and co-editor of Transformational Journaling for Coaches, Therapists, and Clients: A Complete Guide to the Benefits of Personal Writing (2021). Lynda is also co-editor of The Great Book of Journaling (2022). You can find her FREE gift for coaches here: Gratitude Journaling for Coaches & Clients Workbook.

Learn more about Lynda & see all their articles here >>

Image of Coaching Client Journaling at desk with laptop by Prostock-Studio via Shutterstock


  1. Steve Karum

    Always has great content, but this time it spoke to a felt need I have about journaling. Thanks so much.


    • Lynda Monk

      Hi Steve, I'm curious about the need you have about journaling. Can you say more? Is it something you are wanting to do for yourself? Thanks for sharing, Lynda

  2. Jane Ramirez

    My senior year of high school one of my teachers gave us the assignment of journaling every day of the school year for 20% of our overall grade. That was the most transformational class out of any other in my high school years. I’m so grateful to that teacher. He taught us the importance of our own voice, thoughts and ideas. I’ve kept that journal to this day and have a firm belief in the transformational power of journaling. I love that you’ve identified how we can incorporate it into our coaching sessions!

  3. Elena

    I love the questions that we can use with our clients. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Desiree L

    This is so perfect. I have been journaling most of my life and have found it to be incredibly instrumental in my healing process and deeper discovery and understanding of self. Thank you for this article and the guidance towards using this with clients.


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