Accelerating the coping process

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Mar;58(3):528-537. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.58.3.528.


On the basis of previous work, freshmen should evidence improved health after writing about their thoughts and feelings associated with entering college. One hundred thirty subjects were assigned to write either about coming to college or about superficial topics for 20 min on 3 days. One fourth of the subjects in each group wrote during the 1st, 5th, 9th, or 14th week of classes. Physician visits for illness in the months after writing were lower for the experimental than for the control subjects. Self-reports of homesickness and anxiety were higher in the experimental group 2-3 months after writing. By year's end, experimental subjects were either superior or similar to control subjects in grade average and in positive moods. No effects emerged as a function of when people wrote, suggesting that the coping process can be accelerated. Implications for comparing insight treatments with catharsis and for distinguishing between objective and self-report indicators of distress are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Disease Susceptibility / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Life Change Events*
  • Problem Solving
  • Risk Factors
  • Writing