Physical and Psychological Benefits of Written Emotional Expression: Review of Meta-Analyses and Recommendations

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Abstract

The last several decades have witnessed a substantial increase in the number of individuals suffering from both diagnosable and subsyndromal mental health problems. Consequently, the development of cost-effective treatment methods, accessible to large populations suffering from different forms of mental health problems, became imperative. A very promising intervention is the method of expressive writing (EW), which may be used in both clinically diagnosable cases and subthreshold symptomatology. This method, in which people express their feelings and thoughts related to stressful situations in writing, has been found to improve participants’ long-term psychological, physiological, behavioral, and social functioning. Based on a thorough analysis and synthesis of the published literature (also including most recent meta-analyses), the present paper presents the expressive writing method, its short- and long-term, intra-and interpersonal effects, different situations and conditions in which it has been proven to be effective, the most important mechanisms implied in the process of recovery, advantages, disadvantages, and possible pitfalls of the method, as well as variants of the original technique and future research directions.

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