A pilot study on the effects and feasibility of compassion-focused expressive writing in Day Hospice patients
Background: Research has found that writing about stress can confer physical and psychological health benefits on participants and that adopting a self-compassionate stance may have additional benefits. This pilot study evaluated a self-compassionate expressive writing intervention in a Day Hospice setting. Method: Thirteen patients with life-limiting illnesses wrote on two occasions about recent stressful experiences. Half also received a self-compassion instruction for their writing. Outcome measures were taken at baseline and one week after the second writing session and text analysis was used to identify changes in the types of words used, reflecting changes in psychological processes. Results: Patients given the self-compassion instruction increased in their self-soothing and self-esteem in contrast to patients in the stress-only condition. Happiness broadly increased in both groups although reported levels of stress generally increased in patients given the self-compassion instruction but decreased in patients in the stress-only condition. Those given the self-compassion instruction also increased in their use of causal reasoning words across the two writing sessions compared with those in the stress-only condition. Conclusion: Expressive writing appears to be beneficial in patients at a hospice and was viewed as valuable by participants. The inclusion of a self-compassion instruction may have additional benefits and a discussion of the feasibility of implementing expressive writing sessions in a Day Hospice is offered.