Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 368–374 | Cite as

Sequential Growth in Cognitive-behavioral Emotion-processing: A Laboratory Study

  • Adam J. GuastellaEmail author
  • Mark R. Dadds
Original Article


Many clinical models emphasise the importance of sequential shifts in emotion-processing for recovery from emotional conditions. Experimental models of such sequential changes are not well developed. We present an experimental model to study growth in emotion-processing. This study employed a growth writing paradigm in which the participant begins with an exposure-writing method and progresses to one that explores current dysfunctional cognitions and then benefits gained from past experiences. A total of 93 student participants who reported a past upsetting experience along with significant intrusion and avoidance symptoms were recruited. Results suggested the growth model of writing led to more benefits than an unstructured emotion writing paradigm, as indicated by a reduction in anxiety and negative affect scores at 2 months follow-up. Results suggest the possibility of studying synergistic relationships between emotion-processes so that we can better describe the nature of sequential changes in emotion-processing.


Emotion-processing Cognitive-behavioral Therapeutic change Anxiety Growth Writing 



This research was partially supported by the Australian Research Council. We would also like to thank Juliana Charlson for her assistance with data collection and Julia Carmody, Alex Howard, and Dean Carson for comments on this manuscript.


  1. Brewin, C. (2003). Posttraumatic stress disorder: Malady or myth?. Yale University Press: London.Google Scholar
  2. Bryant, R. A., Moulds, M. L., Guthrie, R. M., Dang, S. T., & Nixon, R. D. V. (2003). Imaginal exposure alone and imaginal exposure with cognitive restructuring in treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(4), 706–712. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.71.4.706.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Campbell, R. S., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2003). The secret life of pronouns: Flexibility in writing style and physical health. Psychological Science, 14, 60–65. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.01419.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2004). The positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS): Construct validity, measurement properties and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. The British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43, 245–265. doi: 10.1348/0144665031752934.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Davey, G. C. L. (1997). Conditioning model of phobias. In Phobias: A handbook of theory, research and treatment. New York: WileyGoogle Scholar
  6. Davis, C. G., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Larson, J. (1998). Making sense of loss and benefiting from the experience: Two construals of meaning. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 561–574. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.75.2.561.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ehlers, A., & Clark, D. M. (2000). A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(4), 319–345. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(99)00123-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ehlers, A., Clark, D. M., Hackmann, A., McManus, F., & Fennell, M. (2005). Cognitive therapy for PTSD: Development and evaluation. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 43, 413–431. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2004.03.006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Esterling, B. A., L’Abate, L., Murray, E. J., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1999). Empirical foundations for writing in prevention and psychotherapy: Mental and physical health outcomes. Clinical Psychology Review, 19(1), 79–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Foa, E. B., & Kozak, M. J. (1986). Emotional processing of fear: Exposure to corrective information. Psychological Bulletin, 99(1), 20–35. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.99.1.20.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Frattaroli, J. (2006). Experimental disclosure and its moderators: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 823–865. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.823.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Guastella, A. J., & Dadds, M. R. (in press). Cognitive-behavioral emotion writing tasks: A controlled trial of multiple processes. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. Accepted 20 November 2007.Google Scholar
  13. Guastella, A. J., & Dadds, M. R. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral models of emotional writing: A validation study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 30(3), 397–414. doi: 10.1007/s10608-006-9045-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Horowitz, M. J., Wilner, N., & Alvarez, W. (1979). The impact of event scale: A measure of subjective stress. Psychosomatic Medicine, 41, 209–218.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Janoff-Bulman, R., & Frantz, C. M. (1997). The impact of trauma on meaning: From meaningless world to meaningful life. In M. Power & C. Brewin (Eds.), The transformation of meaning in psychological therapies: Integrating theory and practice. Sussex, England: Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  16. Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). Manual for the depression anxiety stress scales (2nd ed.). Sydney: Psychology Foundation.Google Scholar
  17. Mathews, A., & Mackintosh, B. (2000). Induced emotional interpretation bias and anxiety. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 109, 602–615. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.109.4.602.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pennebaker, J. W., & Beall, S. K. (1986). Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(3), 274–281. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.95.3.274.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Pennebaker, J. W., & Francis, M. E. (1996). Cognitive, emotional, and language processes in disclosure. Cognition and Emotion, 10(6), 601–626. doi: 10.1080/026999396380079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pennebaker, J. W., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., & Glaser, R. (1988). Disclosure of traumas and immune function: Health implications for psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(2), 239–245. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.56.2.239.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Resick, P. A., & Schnicke, M. K. (1993). Cognitive processing therapy for rape victims: A treatment manual. New York: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Rowe, M. K., & Craske, M. G. (1998). Effects of an expanding-spaced vs massed exposure schedule on fear reduction and return of fear. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 36(7–8), 701–717. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(97)10016-X.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Sloan, D. M., & Marx, B. P. (2004). Taking pen to hand: Evaluating theories underlying the written disclosure paradigm. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(2), 121–137. doi: 10.1093/clipsy/bph062.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Smyth, J. M. (1998). Written emotional expression: Effect sizes, outcome types, and moderating variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(1), 174–184.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wampold, B. E., Mondin, G. E., Moody, M., Stich, F., Benson, K., & Ahn, H. (1997). A meta-analysis of outcome studies comparing bona fide psychotherapies: Empirically, all must have prizes. Psychological Bulletin, 122(3), 205–215.Google Scholar
  26. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Carey, G. (1988). Positive and negative affectivity and their relation to anxiety and depressive disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 346–353. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.97.3.346.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Brain & Mind Research InstituteThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations