Psychol Health. 2013;28(6):701-13. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2012.754891. Epub 2013 Jan 7.
Averill AJ1, Kasarskis EJ, Segerstrom SC.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a terminal neurological disease associated with progressive paralysis, loss of communicative ability and functional decline. Expressive disclosure may help people with ALS, particularly those who are emotionally or socially inhibited, meet psychological challenges associated with the disease. People with ALS (N = 48) were randomised to expressive disclosure about their disease or no disclosure. Psychological well-being (affect, depression and quality of life) was assessed pre-intervention and also three and six months later. Results of multi-level models indicated that the group that disclosed thoughts and feelings about ALS had higher well-being than the control group at three months post-intervention, but not six months. Ambivalence over emotional expression (AEE) moderated three-month post-intervention well-being. Those low in AEE had higher well-being than those high in AEE regardless of condition. Those high in AEE, who disclosed, had increased well-being from pre-intervention, whereas controls had decreased well-being from pre-intervention. Expressive disclosure may be helpful for people with ALS, but only those who have difficulty expressing emotions. In addition, the intervention had only temporary effects; the dynamic challenges of ALS progression may mean that the effect of processing thoughts and feelings about the disease in one stage may not generalise to later stages.
J Consult Clin Psychol. 2013 Apr;81(2):284-98. doi: 10.1037/a0030814. Epub 2012 Dec 17.
Ironson G1, O’Cleirigh C, Leserman J, Stuetzle R, Fordiani J, Fletcher M, Schneiderman N.
Trauma histories and symptoms of PTSD occur at very high rates in people with HIV and are associated with poor disease management and accelerated disease progression. The authors of this study examined the efficacy of a brief written trauma disclosure intervention on posttraumatic stress, depression, HIV-related physical symptoms, and biological markers of HIV disease progression.
HIV-infected men and women were randomized to four 30-min expressive writing sessions in either a treatment (trauma writing) or an attention control (daily events writing) condition. The disclosure intervention augmented the traditional emotional disclosure paradigm with probes to increase processing by focusing on trauma appraisals, self-worth, and problem solving. Outcomes were assessed at baseline, 1-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up.
Hierarchical linear modeling (N = 244, intent-to-treat analyses) revealed no significant treatment effects for the group as a whole. Gender by treatment group interactions were significant such that women in the trauma-writing group had significantly reduced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (p = .017), depression (p = .009), and HIV-related symptoms (p = .022) compared with their controls. In contrast, men in the trauma-treatment condition did not improve more than controls on any outcome variables. Unexpectedly, men in the daily-event-writing control group had significantly greater reductions in depression then men in the trauma-writing group. Treatment effects were magnified in women when the analysis was restricted to those with elevated PTSD symptoms at baseline.
A brief (4-session) guided written emotional disclosure intervention resulted in significant and meaningful reductions in PTSD, depression, and physical symptoms for women with HIV, but not for men.