Therapist-assisted Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) involves elements of expressive writing through secure messaging with a therapist. Expressive writing has been associated with psychological and physical health benefits in past research; furthermore, certain linguistic dimensions in expressive writing have been identified as particularly beneficial to health, such as less frequent use of negative emotion words and greater use of positive emotion words. No research, to date, has analyzed linguistic dimensions in client communication over the course of therapist-assisted ICBT for individuals with symptoms of generalized anxiety. This naturalistic study examined messages sent to therapists during the course of ICBT using linguistic analysis, and explored covariation of word use with symptom improvement. Data were obtained from patients with symptoms of generalized anxiety (N = 59) who completed 12 modules of therapist-assisted ICBT and rated symptoms of anxiety, depression, and panic at the beginning of each module. Linguistic analysis categorized text submitted to therapists into different word categories. Results found that patients' use of negative emotion, anxiety, causation, and insight words reduced over the course of treatment, while past tense words increased. Furthermore, negative emotion words significantly covaried with symptom ratings over the course of treatment. While causal statements cannot be made, findings improve our understanding of patient communication in ICBT and suggest that the further study of linguistic dimensions as psychological indicators and the potential utility of expressive writing strategies in therapist-assisted ICBT may be worthwhile.
Keywords: Internet-delivered; cognitive behavior therapy; generalized anxiety; linguistic analysis; therapist-assisted.