Encouraging acceptance of ambivalence using the expressive writing paradigm


Correspondence should be addressed to Rebecca E. Kelly, School of Psychological Sciences, 112a, 1st Floor, Zochonis Building, University of Manchester, Brunswick Street, Manchester M13 9PL, UK (e-mail: rebecca.e.kelly@manchester.ac.uk).


Objectives. Ambivalence is regarded as a key target for psychotherapeutic change. This study aimed to examine the effectiveness of a brief expressive writing intervention for reducing distress about goal ambivalence.

Design. A sample of 40 undergraduate students were randomly allocated to an experimental ‘expressive writing’ condition or a control condition.

Method. Participants rated their ambivalence about the 10 most important goals they were currently pursuing and rated how distressing they found these feelings of ambivalence. Participants then completed three short expressive writing sessions on consecutive days. Participants in the experimental condition participants wrote about their deepest thoughts and feelings relating to their ambivalence, and participants in the control condition wrote about how they had spent their time that day or week.

Results. When controlling for baseline distress about ambivalence, there was a significant effect of writing condition on distress about ambivalence at follow-up; individuals who wrote about their ambivalence experienced a significant reduction in their level of distress about ambivalence.

Conclusion. It was concluded that expressive writing might represent an analogue of therapeutic approaches to encourage acceptance of ambivalence.