The healing power of writing: applying the expressive/creative component of poetry therapy

Pages 141-154 | Published online: 20 Feb 2007

The healing aspects of writing are explored in this article. This includes an overview of the evidence for the use of writing in therapeutic capacities, as well as a discussion of the limitations. A case study involving the use of journaling with a client suffering from Lupus is presented. Brief illustrations of the use of writing in couple, family and group modalities are also presented.

A meta-analysis of the effects of written emotional disclosure on the health outcomes of clinical populations.

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2004 Sep;192(9):629-34.

Frisina PG1, Borod JC, Lepore SJ.

A meta-analysis was conducted to examine the effects of the written emotional disclosure paradigm on health outcomes of people with physical or psychiatric disorders. After nine studies were meta-analyzed, it was determined that expressive writing significantly improved health (d = .19; p < .05). However, this positive relationship (r = .10) was not moderated by any systemic variables because of the nonsignificant test of homogeneity (Qw = 5.27; p = .73). Nonetheless, a planned contrast illustrated that expressive writing is more effective on physical (d = .21; p = .01) than on psychological (d = .07; p = .17) health outcomes (Qb > 10.83; p < .001). One explanation for the small effect size (ES) results and the nonsignificant test of homogeneity may be the small and heterogeneous samples used in some of the studies within this research synthesis. Future research with expressive writing should be tested with randomized controlled trials to increase the likelihood of detecting a larger treatment effect.

A closer examination of the structured written disclosure procedure.

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2004 Apr;72(2):165-75.

Sloan DM1, Marx BP.

The current study examined psychological and physical health outcomes of the written disclosure paradigm and the hypothesis that the principles of therapeutic exposure account for the beneficial effects of the paradigm. Participants were randomly assigned to either a written disclosure condition or a control condition. Reactivity to the writing sessions was examined using both subjective and physiological measures. Measures of psychological and physical health were completed before and 1 month after the sessions. Participants assigned to the disclosure condition reported fewer psychological and physical symptoms at follow-up compared with control participants, though reductions were clinically significant for only 1 outcome measure. Physiological activation to the 1st disclosure session was associated with reduced psychological symptoms at follow-up for disclosure participants. Subjective reports of emotional responding corresponded with physiological reactivity. Implications of these findings are discussed.