Post-divorce journaling may be more of a hindrance than help

While you may think that putting your feelings down on pen and paper after separating from your spouse or following a divorce may be just what the doctor ordered, a recent study says otherwise.

A team of researchers led by a psychological scientist at the University of Arizona found that writing about feelings after a recent divorce can actually cause people to feel more distressed, contrary to what some family members, therapists, or even you may think.

The study consisted of 90 recently separated or divorced people segregated into three groups, writing for twenty minutes a day, three days a week.

The first group was instructed to write freely about their feelings (traditional expressive writing), while the second group was instructed to use a narrative structure when writing about their feelings (narrative expressive writing). The final group was a control group that was told to keep a day-to-day activities journal without including any text about their emotions or feelings.

Turns out that after eight months, the researchers found the most effective emotional healing occurred in the control group, who practiced the non-expressive style of writing.

“This study is important because it challenges our notions about what might be the thing to do to promote healing after a divorce,” said David Sbarra, the primary author of the study. “It makes us reconsider the things we do to try to put our lives back together.”

In would seem then that journaling post-split could actually serve to intensify a person’s emotional distress.

The study will be published in an upcoming issue of Clinical Psychological Science.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …

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This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Huffington Post, “Divorce research: New study shows journaling post-split may do more harm than good,” Nov. 29, 2012