Expressive writing intervention for adolescents' somatic symptoms and mood

J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2004 Dec;33(4):792-801. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3304_14.


The effects of a widely used expressive writing intervention on adolescents' somatic symptoms, distress, and positive psychological functioning were evaluated. Eighth-grade (n=106) students were randomly assigned to write about either an emotional or a neutral topic for 3 consecutive days. Students completed measures of somatic symptoms, medical visits, distress, and positive functioning at baseline, postintervention, and 2 and 6 weeks later. Somatic symptoms and medical visits were unchanged as a result of the intervention. However, significant Time Condition effects indicated that optimism scores increased, negative-affect scores decreased, and positive-affect words in student essays increased in the experimental condition. Expressive writing shows promise as a cost-efficient intervention to address the emotional concerns of young adolescents; further work with clinical populations may lead to even more robust results.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Writing*