Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2003 Oct;29(10):1236-44.
This study examined the impact of disclosing traumas on resilient self-perceptions and psychological distress. Participants (N = 50) wrote about a traumatic life event or their plans for the next day and completed measures of resilience and distress before disclosing (pretest) and 3 months later (posttest). Results revealed that trauma participants increased in positive self-perceptions (mastery, personal growth, self-acceptance) and decreased in distress (depression, interpersonal sensitivity, anxiety, somatization) from pretest to posttest. Control participants showed no changes except for autonomy, on which they decreased. Results suggest that in addition to reducing psychological distress, disclosing traumas change self-perception, resulting in a more resilient self-concept.
Cognitive Therapy and Research
Traditional expressive writing (EW) and EW augmented by emotion-acceptance instructions (EWEA) were compared to non-emotional control writing for their ability to forestall depression symptoms in undergraduates with high or low initial levels of depression symptomatology. EWEA instructions encouraged participants to take a more accepting, “emotion friendly” approach toward expressive writing, stressing the importance of “staying present” with difficult emotional experiences non-judgmentally and with openness. Writing condition interacted significantly with initial depression such that at the 5-week posttest, EWEA was more beneficial than control writing for participants with low to mild initial depression symptoms (CESD <17) and EW was more beneficial than control writing for participants with very low initial depression symptoms (CESD <8). But for the EW condition, this effect was reversed such that participants in this condition with high initial depression (CESD >26) fared worse at posttest than those in the control group.