Expressive Writing

Deborah Nazarian, Joshua Smyth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Expressive writing is a psychosocial intervention that promotes written emotional disclosure of stressful or traumatic events in a structured and confidential manner. Written emotional disclosure is used as an intervention to foster emotional expression without regard to social stigma, and encourages individuals to approach and express their emotions through writing in an experimental setting. The effects of this emotional disclosure are usually compared to writing about emotionally neutral writing topics. The use of writing as a form of therapy appears to have evolved from psychotherapeutic traditions that espoused emotional expression. Expressive writing thus provides a means of expressing and processing emotions that can help avoid the barriers and/or negative consequences that might accompany interpersonal disclosure. Structured expressive writing (as opposed to unstructured) focuses on a specific topic of writing, such as stressful or traumatic life experiences. The majority of experimental studies utilize this form of structured writing within the controlled setting of the laboratory. In the prototypical writing study, disclosure is induced in the laboratory by randomly assigning participants to either an expressive writing group or an emotionally neutral writing condition. Participants in both groups are usually assured of confidentiality and encouraged to write without regard to spelling, style, or grammar. The time and attention are matched between conditions in an attempt to equalize all factors except for the experimental manipulation. Therefore, the sole difference between the experimental and the control groups are the writing instructions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEvidence-Based Adjunctive Treatments
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780120885206
StatePublished - 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Dentistry
  • General Medicine


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