The researchers embarked on a pioneering study that explored the power of expressive writing in therapist-assisted Internet-delivered cognitive behavior therapy (ICBT) for individuals with generalized anxiety symptoms. Expressive writing, which involves secure messaging with a therapist, has been linked to psychological and physical health benefits in previous research. However, no study to date has examined the linguistic dimensions of client communication in ICBT and their association with symptom improvement.
Using a naturalistic approach, the researchers analyzed messages sent to therapists during the course of ICBT and categorized them into different word categories for linguistic analysis. Remarkably, the results revealed that patients' use of negative emotion, anxiety, causation, and insight words decreased over the treatment, while past tense words increased. Furthermore, negative emotion words significantly covaried with symptom ratings, shedding light on the potential of linguistic dimensions as psychological indicators and the efficacy of expressive writing strategies in therapist-assisted ICBT.