Jensen-Johansen, M.B., Christensen, S., Valdimarsdottir, H., Zakowski, S., Jensen, A.B., Bovbjerg, D.H., & Zachariae, R. (2012). Effects of an expressive writing intervention on cancer-related distress in Danish breast cancer survivors—Results from a nationwide randomized clinical trial. Psycho-Oncology, 22, 1492–1500.doi: 10.1002/pon.3193
To examine the effects of an expressive writing intervention on cancer-related distress, symptoms of depression, and mood in women with early-stage breast cancer
Women were randomized to an expressive writing group or a control group. Both groups were instructed to write for 20 minutes once a week over a three-week period. On each writing day, patients were contacted by telephone to initiate the writing session and contacted again after 20 minutes to terminate writing. Patients in the expressive writing group were instructed to write about a distressing event and to explore their deepest emotions and feelings about the experience. Control group patients were asked to write about their daily activities in a detailed and objective manner. Study questionnaires were completed at baseline and at three and nine months postintervention.
Single-blind, randomized controlled trial with an active control group
The expressive writing group showed significant changes in negative and positive mood immediately after the writing sessions (d = 0.84–1.04, p < 0.001). When age and baseline measures were included in analysis as covariates, there were no significant effects or group-by-time interactions.
Investigators could not confirm the hypothesis that, compared to patients in an active control group, patients in an expressive writing group experience less cancer-related distress.
This study does not provide evidence to support expressive writing as an intervention to reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression in women with breast cancer.