Focused expressive writing as self-help for stress and trauma.

J Clin Psychol. 2003 Feb;59(2):227-35.


In the therapy process, the process of disclosing about stressful or traumatic events is often considered essential. One such manner is through focused expressive writing (FEW) about stressful or traumatic experiences. FEW is related to improvements in health and well-being, across a wide array of outcomes and participant characteristics. As FEW requires limited involvement of other individuals, is relatively low cost, and portable, it has tremendous potential as self-help. In particular, FEW may be an effective means to reach populations unwilling or unable to engage in psychotherapy. A case illustration of FEW is presented. Evidence and future directions for FEW as self-help are reviewed.

The use of writing in psychotherapy.

Am J Psychother. 1991 Jan;45(1):87-98.

L’Abate L.

The use of writing in psychotherapy is relatively new and may have meager empirical support. A rationale for the use of writing in psychotherapy is given in terms of splitting therapeutic skills into relationship and structuring skills. Writing is one application of structuring skills to increase the therapist’s influence outside of the office and into the home or workplace. There are at least four different degrees of writing possible according to structure: open, focused, guided, and programmed. Examples from the available literature are given. Even though, its impact on therapeutic outcome has yet to be fully realized beyond the experience of few clinicians. Pennebacker’s research contribution in the use of writing is highlighted to support its use in psychotherapy. He found that students who wrote on traumatic topics for 20 minutes a day for four days showed improved physiological reactions and fewer physical symptoms at three-month follow-up than students who wrote about trivial topics.

A systematic writing program as a tool in the grief process: part 1.

Patient Prefer Adherence. 2010 Dec 6;4:425-31. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S14864.

Furnes B1, Dysvik E.

The basic aim of this paper is to suggest a flexible and individualized writing program as a tool for use during the grief process of bereaved adults.


An open, qualitative approach following distinct steps was taken to gain a broad perspective on the grief and writing processes, as a platform for the writing program.


Following several systematic methodological steps, we arrived at suggestions for the initiation of a writing program and its structure and substance, with appropriate guidelines.


We believe that open and expressive writing, including free writing and focused writing, may have beneficial effects on a person experiencing grief. These writing forms may be undertaken and systematized through a writing program, with participation in a grief writing group and with diary writing, to achieve optimal results.


A structured writing program might be helpful in promoting thought activities and as a tool to increase the coherence and understanding of individuals in the grief process. Our suggested program may also be a valuable guide to future program development and research.