Expressive Writing As a Means to Heal From Trauma

Author James A. Chu said in his book titled “Rebuilding Shattered Lives: Treating Complex PTSD and Dissociative Disorders”,

“Unspeakable feelings need to find expression in words. However…verbalization of very intense feelings may be a difficult task.”

Expressive writing allows us to pull from within a stream of thoughts, feelings, and sensations that perhaps we didn’t know existed. Whether through pencil or keyboard, expressive writing opens up an entirely new world in which there is no write or wrong, no judgment, and an endless array of words to utilize as one so chooses. If you’re seeking to find some healing and restoration from trauma, expressive writing could be one beautiful option to include in your treatment recovery plan.

A 2015 study published in the journal Emotion sought to explore the effects of expressive writing as it pertains to self-distancing from trauma, which the authors described as “a process that facilitates meaning-making.” In other words, self-distancing is used when we recall a traumatic memory but are able to view it from a self-distanced perspective, assessing our emotions rather than feeling as though we are part of the trauma again.

A total of 56 participants were involved, and randomly assigned to either expressive writing or and control study. Individuals were assessed for depression, physical symptoms, self-distancing, and emotional reactivity. For the expressive writing group, each session they were asked to write for 15 minutes. The researchers did a 1-day and 1-month following and found the following:

  • As participants reflected more on their traumatic experiences, they began to self-distance more; ultimately, they self-distanced more at their 1-month follow up.
  • Participants in the expressive writing group experienced less emotional reactivity than the control group, possibly because they were able to release those emotions on paper.
  • At the 1-month follow up, participants who practiced more self-distancing also reported fewer physical symptoms.

Sometimes the pain from our past stays inside of us, and tucks itself away where we do not see or hear from it but through headaches, backaches, anxiety, and more. Expression allows these concealed thoughts and feelings to release, ultimately providing us with more room and energy to heal.

Avalon Integrative Wellness offers an innovative approach to wellness and the exciting brand shift of our program emphasizes the importance of integrative wellness through experiential frameworks. Clients at Avalon Integrative Wellness learn, act, experience, grow, heal, and evolve, concurrently. If you’re ready to optimize your health and well-being, call us today at 888-266-9048.

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