Psychol Health. 2015;30(3):284-300. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2014.971798. Epub 2014 Oct 27.
This randomised trial tested (i) whether a home-based expressive writing (EW) intervention improves quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and (ii) whether the intervention is more beneficial for men or for people who feel constrained in disclosing cancer-related concerns and feelings.
Patients treated for CRC were randomised to an EW (n = 101) or control writing (CW; n = 92) group. Assessments were completed at 1 month pre- and post-intervention. Sex and perceived social constraints on disclosure were evaluated as moderators.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:
Primary outcomes were depressive symptoms, sleep problems and quality of life indicators.
Eighty-one per cent of participants completed all writing assignments. Consistent with hypotheses, relative to the CW group, participants in the EW group expressed more negative emotion in writing and rated their writings as more meaningful, personal and emotionally revealing. There were no significant main effects of EW or moderating effects of sex or social constraints on outcomes.
Although EW is feasible to use with persons who have CRC, it was not effective as a stand-alone psychotherapeutic intervention. Neither was it more effective for men nor for people who felt they could not freely disclose cancer-related concerns and feelings.
J Coll Stud Ret. 2010;12(4):407-428.
Several early studies and subsequent reviews suggested that written emotional disclosure (WED)-writing repeatedly about personal stressful experiences-leads to improved academic performance of college students. Yet a critical review of available studies casts some doubt on this, so we conducted three randomized, controlled experiments of the effects of WED versus control writing on grade point average (GPA) of college students. In all three studies, WED writing was implemented effectively-it contained more negative emotion language and generated more negative mood than did control writing. In Study 1, WED did not influence GPA during either the writing semester or subsequent semester among 96 students with headaches. In Study 2, WED had no effect on GPA compared with either control writing or no writing conditions among 124 students with unresolved stress. In Study 3, WED did not influence GPA or retention among 68 academically at-risk ethnic minority students, although secondary analyses suggested some benefits of WED among students who wrote more than once, particularly men. These three studies challenge the belief that WED improves academic performance of college students, and research should examine subgroups of students who might benefit from WED.
Eur J Psychol. 2015 Nov 27;11(4):651-63. doi: 10.5964/ejop.v11i4.991. eCollection 2015 Nov.
Research into the change processes underlying the benefits of expressive writing is still incomplete. To fill this gap, we investigated the linguistic markers of change in cognitive and emotional processing among women with breast cancer, highlighting the differences and peculiarities during different treatment phases. A total of 60 writings were collected from 20 women: 10 receiving chemotherapy and 10 receiving biological therapy. We performed a series of repeated measures ANOVA for the most meaningful LIWC linguistic categories, including positive/negative emotions and cognitive processes, to assess change over three sessions. Results demonstrated a significant increase in the positive emotions category for the entire group of women, with particular relevance for the biological therapy group of women, and a marginally significant (p = .07) greater use of words indicating cognitive processes for women receiving biological therapy. For the negative emotions category time was significant for the whole group of women, showing a peak of use in the second session of writing. Peculiar differences in the linguistic markers of processing trauma were observed between the two groups. Although the writing intervention is a support for both groups of women, it seems to be beneficial when there is a large time gap since the administration of chemotherapy and, thus, when the patient can revisit the experience. The relationship of the illness with life can be rearticulated, and the writing becomes a space for resignifying the traumatic cancer experience.
Br J Health Psychol. 2008 Feb;13(Pt 1):31-4. doi: 10.1348/135910707X251234.
This study examined the effects of expressive narrative writing in 607 participants. Compared with a control group, the participants randomly assigned to write about their feelings and thoughts after the Madrid train attack on M11 report less negative emotions related to the recall of the collective trauma at a 2-month follow-up after the attacks. However, no effects were found on positive affect, probably because the study had only one writing session of brief duration. Stronger feelings of joy, use of positive words, and low use of negative words in the narratives predicted low emotional activation at follow-up.
Psychol Sci. 2006 Aug;17(8):660-4.
Writing about emotional experiences is associated with a host of positive outcomes. This study extended the expressive-writing paradigm to the realm of romantic relationships to examine the social effects of writing. For 3 consecutive days, one person from each of 86 dating couples either wrote about his or her deepest thoughts and feelings about the relationship or wrote about his or her daily activities. In the days before and after writing, instant messages were collected from the couples. Participants who wrote about their relationship were significantly more likely to still be dating their romantic partners 3 months later. Linguistic analyses of the instant messages revealed that participants and their partners used significantly more positive and negative emotion words in the days following the expressive-writing manipulation if the participants had written about their relationship than if they had written about their daily activities. Increases in positive emotion words partially mediated the relation between expressive writing and relationship stability.