Writing for Health was an intervention for middle school students that involved expressive writing. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, this study was conducted over a three-year period in Philadelphia and Chesterfield County, Va. with faculty from Temple University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Writing for Health was built on the idea that expressive writing (writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings related to stress) produces changes in adjustment relative to writing about non-emotional topics. There is ample evidence to support this notion in studies with adults, but few published studies with youth.
Expressive writing is thought to work by helping individuals (a) become less bothered by intrusive thoughts about the stress they are experiencing; and (b) develop new insights about their self or the stressful experience. These changes in turn help individuals regulate their emotions more effectively and increase their working memory capacity, ultimately leading to lower stress and improved social, emotional, cognitive and health outcomes.