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November 2021

Effective and ineffective ways of writing about traumatic experiences: A qualitative study

Author(s): Schoutrop, M. J. A., Lange, A., Louis, C. M., Slegers, J. E. M.

Journal/Book: Psychother Res. 1999; 9: 72 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012, USA. Guilford Publications Inc. 363-380.

Abstract: The present qualitative study was directed at clients undergoing a writing therapy for overcoming a traumatic experience. Its main purpose was to search for elements in the essay texts that were highly discriminative between effective and ineffective writing. The essay series of 20 clients were analyzed in an open way: ten clients who, according to an external criterion, strongly improved at six-weeks follow up, and ten clients who did not. The results show that textual features such as future directedness, generalization of written essays to present life, regained control, and an undamaged self esteem are associated with improvement. Also features referring to more classical phenomena show this association: the undoing of past avoidance and repression, disclosures, the extinction of negative emotions, and the emergence of positive emotions. Moreover, simple features such as lengthy essay texts, texts not declining in length during the series, and a positive last sentence, are indicative of improvement. However, some conditions (these were fixed at the beginning of writing) seem to play a role too, such as stage of overcoming the trauma and the predictability of its impact. Some of the features found may be incorporated in future writing instructions in order to determine their usefulness.

Note: Article van Zuuren FJ, Univ Amsterdam, Dept Clin Psychol, Roetersstr 15, NL-1018 WB Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS


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