Expressive writing can impede emotional recovery following marital separation

David A. Sbarra, Adriel Boals, Ashley E. Mason, Grace M. Larson, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Marital separation and divorce are common life events that increase risk for poor health outcomes, yet few intervention studies explore how to mitigate this increased risk. This study implemented an expressive writing (EW) intervention for adults who experienced a recent marital separation. Ninety participants (32 men) were randomly assigned to and completed one of three experimental writing tasks: traditional EW, a novel (narrative-based) type of EW, or control writing. Up to 9 months after this writing, participants who were judged to be actively engaged in a search for meaning concerning their separation reported significantly worse emotional outcomes when assigned to either EW condition relative to control writing. Within the control condition, those participants who were actively engaged in a search for meaning reported the lowest levels of separation-related disturbance. We discuss these results in terms of the factors that may limit and promote psychological recovery following marital separation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-134
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Coping
  • Divorce
  • Expressive writing
  • Marital separation
  • Meaning making
  • Moderation
  • Rumination
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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