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.
The role of emotional expression was explored in the writings of adolescent children of parents with cancer. Participants ages 12-18 (n=40) were assigned randomly to write in 3 sessions about their thoughts and feelings regarding their parents’ cancer (experimental condition) or their time management (fact control condition). Physical health (i.e., doctor visits, school absences, physical symptoms) and psychological health variables (i.e., internalizing and externalizing behavior, depression, anxiety, positive emotion, negative emotion, post traumatic growth) were assessed as a function of writing condition and participants’ temporal orientation (i.e., the time period on which a person bases the majority of his or her perceptions of reality). Results from analysis of covariance indicated experimental condition was related to decreases in negative affect, self reported depression symptoms, parent-reported anxiety symptoms, and parent- reported internalizing problems in the adolescent participants and increases in post traumatic growth reported by the adolescent participants. Past temporal orientation was related to increased conduct problems reported by parents, increased physical symptoms, and decreased school absences. Conduct problems scores reported by parent were related to increased positive affect, increased anxiety, and decreased illness-related doctor visits. Adolescent Atypicality scores were related to increased parent-reported anxiety in the child, physical symptoms, and school absences. Problem solving coping was related to decreased anxiety, and behavioral avoidance coping was related to increased depression as reported by parent and increased internalizing problems as reported by parent. Given the significant results for the experimental condition, the findings are discussed in light of future possible research on the use of emotional expressive writing in adolescents as well as use of emotional writing tasks as interventions for adolescent children of cancer patients.
Psychooncology. 2010 Jan;19(1):77-84. doi: 10.1002/pon.1532.
To assess the effects of an expressive writing (EW) intervention on perceptions of emotional support in women completing treatment for early stage breast cancer.
Women were recruited to the study during their final week of treatment. Of 260 eligible patients, 104 (40%) agreed to participate, and 93 were randomised. Women in the writing group wrote for 20 min on four consecutive days. The control group received normal care. Women’s perceptions of emotional support, quality of life (QOL), mood, and healthcare utilisation were assessed at baseline, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months. Interviews were conducted to explore women’s experience of writing.
Eighty participants completed all follow-ups. There was a significant effect of group on women’s perceptions of social support with those in the intervention group being more satisfied with the emotional support they received (p<0.05). Satisfaction with emotional support was negatively correlated with depression/dejection (p<0.05) and anger/hostility (p<0.05) and positively correlated with social and family well-being (p<0.001) 6 months post intervention. There were no significant effects of the intervention on mood, QOL or healthcare utilisation. Most participants found writing valuable and did not report any long-term negative effects.
EW was associated with a higher level of satisfaction with emotional support compared with controls. Given the existing evidence supporting the importance of social support in adjustment to breast cancer, it seems feasible to suggest that EW may be a cost effective accessible treatment that could be incorporated into the ongoing care of women.