Cummings, J. A., Hayes, A. M., Saint, D. S., & Park, J. (2014). Expressive writing in psychotherapy: A tool to promote and track therapeutic change. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(5), 378-386.
Expressive writing (EW) can be a useful supplement to psychotherapy, regardless of therapeutic orientation. In an open trial of exposure-based cognitive therapy for depression, 43 participants used EW before each session, producing 928 EW samples. Using examples from these, we discuss how EW can be used to both promote and track therapeutic change. Specifically, we review the impact of EW on therapeutic growth, via self-monitoring, increased awareness, and exposure/emotional processing. We then discuss how EW can be used to track important predictors of change such as symptoms, therapeutic alliance, social support, avoidance, and hopelessness. We conclude by discussing potential limitations to the use of EW in therapy and by recommending specific strategies for incorporating EW into clinical practice.
Clin Psychol Rev. 1999 Jan;19(1):79-96.
Esterling BA1, L’Abate L, Murray EJ, Pennebaker JW.
The use of writing, alone or in conjunction with traditional psychotherapy, has increased substantially in recent years. The most widespread use of writing has been for single-shot ad hoc purposes or to log behavior. The purpose of this review is to summarize a decade of research demonstrating the efficacy of writing about past traumatic experiences on mental and physical health outcomes. It is widely acknowledged in our culture that putting upsetting experiences into words can be healthy. Research from several domains indicates that talking with friends, confiding to a therapist, praying, and even writing about one’s thoughts and feelings can be physically and mentally beneficial. This review highlights advances in written disclosure that determine some therapeutic outcomes. In addition, we attempt to explore the mechanisms that predict improved psychological and physical health. Finally, limitations of previous studies are highlighted, and suggestions for future research and application are made.