Experimentally reducing event centrality using a modified expressive writing intervention

Authors:

Adriel Boals, Amy R. Murrell, Dorthe Berntsen, Shana Southard-Dobbs, Stephanie Agtarap

Abstract:

Event centrality, the extent to which one perceives a stressful or traumatic event as central to one's identity, has been shown to be one of the predictors of PTSD symptoms. Boals and Murrell (in press) found that an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)-based, therapist-led treatment resulted in significant decreases in event centrality, which in turn led to decreases in PTSD symptoms. In the current study, a version of this treatment was administered using a modified expressive writing intervention. Participants were randomly assigned to learn core components about either ACT, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), or baseball (control) via audio analogs. The ACT and CBT groups then attempted to apply what they learned in two subsequent expressive writing sessions, while the baseball group wrote about a neutral topic. The results revealed that participants in the ACT and CBT conditions evidenced significant decreases in event centrality, if they followed the writing instructions correctly, in comparison to the control group. However, there were no group differences in changes in PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that principles of ACT and traditional CBT expressed using a modified expressive writing intervention hold great promise to help individuals recover from stressful experiences.

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