Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. C. Richard Spates

Second Advisor

Dr. Galen Alessi

Third Advisor

Dr. Scott H. Kollins

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Helle Augustesen


Research supports the effectiveness of writing therapy in reducing physical health problems and increasing positive feelings (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). More recently, research indicates that writing about traumatic experiences is as effective as EMDR in reducing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Largo-Marsh & Spates, 1997). The current study assessed the treatment efficacy of writing therapy for individuals with varying degrees of stress related symptoms. Specifically, this study examined writing treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and work-related chronic stress or "burnout."

The study utilized a pretest-posttest comparison group design. Repeated measurements !)n primary dependent variables were collected at pretest through 2- month follow-up.

Assessment instruments included the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV (CAPS-DX), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI- State), Subjective Units of Distress rating (SUDs), Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-11), Coping Resources Inventory (CRI), and Health Care Visits Questionnaire.

Subjects were assigned to participant groups based upon their scores on the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-DX) and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). Treatment consisted of four weekly sessions, each 30 minutes in duration. The structured writing treatment was targeted at the traumatic event or stressful work situation identified as most presently distressing. A total of 16 participants completed the study through 2-month follow-up with 8 participants in each group.

Results of this study indicated that participants in the Burnout condition showed significant decreases in symptom reports of depression as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory-II. These gains were maintained through 2-month followup. Participants in the PTSD group showed no significant improvement on any dependent measures. However, moderate to large effects sizes were found for these analyses, suggesting that an increased sample size may have resulted in the detection of significant improvements in symptom reports across all dependent measures for both conditions.

The main limitation of this study was the small sample size. The study suffered from both difficulties recruiting participants as well as attrition. Recommendations for future research in this area include monetary incentive for participation. This research is best viewed as a pilot study, the results of which warrant further investigation.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

Included in

Psychology Commons