Emerging Scholars Fellowship

What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing

Throughout my illness and recovery, I have always been drawn to self-help books. Even when I was in treatment, I was often working through a self-help workbook in between sessions. It was my way really committing myself to recovery — I was doing the work on my own as well as with my therapist.

I remember going to the bookstore and grabbing all the books I was interested in from the self-help and psychology sections and sitting on the ground going through them. Despite the many workbooks I’ve used, I didn’t find any that really clicked with what I was searching for.

As I got further in my recovery, I strayed from the heavy, clinical workbooks to the genre of guided and interactive journals. These were often more creative, based in self-expression and fun to work through. However, I realized that while I loved the voice and approach of these journals, I missed having the clinical and researched aspect. I wanted the journal to be based in something that would help me, not just something that was purely fun or aesthetic.

Finally I decided that since there wasn’t one that filled this gap between clinical and creative, I would make one myself. I proposed “What Now? A Creative Workbook Journal Thing” as my degree project and applied (and was accepted) to be an Active Minds Emerging Scholar to make it a reality.

“What Now?” is a workbook/journal featuring creative prompts to help users process and express emotions in a visual, cheeky way. It’s organized into sections by core emotion. The prompts in the journal draw influence from several existing therapeutic approaches and theories, but mainly from art therapy and the skills and philosophy of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a treatment model that centers around mindfulness, emotional regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. At its core, DBT is rooted in validation and in the synthesis of acceptance and change, and that theme runs throughout the journal.

While the book isn’t a substitute for treatment, it can be an aid in managing the difficult emotions that may come with a mental health condition. The goal of this journal is to help people — especially young adults — improve emotional regulation, build resilience and increase (and destigmatize) help-seeking.

I hope this book will provide an alternative way of journaling and a more creative approach to a workbook. I want people to be able to work through what life throws at them in a beneficial way, and I believe this will be an invaluable tool for managing mental health.