Writing as Therapy? A Brief Look at “Expressive Writing” and its Benefits
by Matthew Lopatto
Expressive writing is an intervention for people that are dealing with difficult and stressful experiences in their lives. Dr. James Pennebaker devised this type of therapy in 1986, and expressive writing has become increasingly popular in psychological research over the last couple of decades. While expressive writing can come in many different forms, the instructions normally ask a person to write for somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes on consecutive days about traumatic or upsetting experiences (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005). When subjects begin writing, they are asked to explore their deepest thoughts and emotions related to stressors (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005). Depending on the study, writing instructions can limit subjects to discuss one specific stressor, or allow the writer to discuss any number of stressors in their life. The control group(s) may also vary, but typically control groups are writing about neutral topics in a non-emotional way (e.g., reporting the activities they did yesterday). The implementation of expressive writing is easy, with low to no cost. Although some expressive writing experiments are conducted in a laboratory or clinic, there are times when it is done in subjects’ homes (Henry et al., 2010). Regardless of setting, the writer is supposed to be in a quiet place, where there are no distractions. An example of the expressive writing paradigm is presented below:
Call for Contributions for Revisions: Feeling Writing
Enjoying guilty pleasures, recalling bittersweet memories, practicing tough love, shedding tears of joy, having nervous laughter, messaging frenemies: emotions are complicated, and we often don’t know how to describe what we’re feeling. However, writing about our emotions is a powerful way to process them, can help reveal our deeper emotional selves, and allows us to share our unique experiences with others. For the 15th issue of Revisions: A Journal on Writing, we invite contributions that explore emotions in writing and about writing.
Examples of options include but are not limited to:
- A memoir of your experience expressing emotions in different languages.
- A letter to your future grandchildren about what it is like to be a trans wo/man.
- A how-to guide to combat writer’s block.
- A biography of the influence of an author on your emotional development.
- A manifesto of a niche sexual orientation/fetish you partake in.
- A diary entry of a day you felt a particularly strong emotion (empowered, anger, depression).
- A eulogy you would deliver at a loved one’s memorial service or going-away party.
- A meta-analysis of your most popular tweets from the past year.
- A research paper on Internet rage and the comment trolls.
- A comedy about misunderstood text messages gone wrong.
- A love letter to a crush.
We invite Queens College students, faculty, and staff to contribute articles, creative writing, and images (no more than 1000 words). Submissions are due Sunday, November 18, 2018. Please submit a .doc and/or .jpeg file as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org, including the word “Articles” or “Images” in your subject line. See the Writing at Queens website for past issues and more information.
Writing at Queens supports and administers the college's writing curriculum, providing resources for students and for faculty.
Kevin L. Ferguson, Director
Queens Hall 330A