Writing to Reduce the Negative Consequences of Domestic Abuse

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lillian M. Range

Advisor Department



This study investigated whether writing about domestic abuse experiences would reduce visits to the health clinic and/or physician, depression, hopelessness, suicidality, and PTSD symptoms. Eligible participants were systematically assigned to one of two conditions in which they were asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings surrounding domestic abuse or to write about innocuous events. Over a two-week period 60 undergraduate students and women from a homeless shelter wrote for 20 minutes per day on four days. Contrary to predictions, written emotional disclosure did not result in a reduction of health visits or psychological symptoms at follow-up. Participants in the profound condition reported about the same physical and psychological symptoms as control condition participants. The beneficial effects of written emotional disclosure were not demonstrated for survivors of domestic abuse. The present physical and psychological health findings are consistent with some research but inconsistent with other research.