The Utility of Expressive Writing as Self-Help to Reduce Psychosocial Stress

Author Name OMORI Mika  (Ochanomizu University)
Creation Date/NO. November 2013 13-J-076
Research Project Research Project on Mental Health from the Perspective of Human Capital
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Psychosocial stress has received attention from scholars and practitioners as a mental health issue within a variety of domains ranging from school to industrial settings. Extreme or chronic psychological distress results in not only psychological problems such as depression but also physical illnesses mediating health risk behaviors. Evidence-based preventive strategies must be developed to promote stress reduction programs. The present paper primarily sought to discuss new directions of self-help for psychological stress. In order to accomplish this, the paper first overviewed traditional psychotherapies and argues the potential problems. Next, expressive writing proposed by Pennebaker et al. (1986) as a self-help method was introduced. The effectiveness of expressive writing within the context of college transition was empirically tested by an experimental design with 24 female college freshmen. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three experimental groups: expressive writing, controlled writing, and non-writing control groups. Individuals assigned to either expressive writing or controlled writing groups were asked to engage in writing tasks for 20 minutes for three consecutive days. Changes in positive emotions increased after the completion of the writing sessions, however, those changes were not statistically significant. No statistically significant changes were observed for three outcome variables including depression, anxiety, and anger. Implications for future studies were discussed.