Randomised trial of expressive writing for distressed metastatic breast cancer patients

Catherine E Mosher, Katherine N Duhamel, Joanne Lam, Maura Dickler, Yuelin Li, Mary Jane Massie, Larry Norton
Psychology & Health 2012, 27 (1): 88-100
Women with metastatic breast cancer and significant psychological distress (N = 87) were assigned randomly to engage in four home-based sessions of expressive writing or neutral writing. Women in the expressive writing group wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings regarding their cancer, whereas women in the neutral writing group wrote about their daily activities in a factual manner. No statistically significant group differences in existential and psychological well-being, fatigue and sleep quality were found at 8-weeks post-writing. However, the expressive writing group reported significantly greater use of mental health services during the study than the neutral writing group (55% vs. 26%, respectively; p < 0.05). Findings suggest that expressive writing may improve the uptake of mental health services among distressed cancer patients, but is not broadly effective as a psychotherapeutic intervention.

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