Expressive Interviewing
Expressive Interviewing


Expressive Interviewing is building off techniques for Expressive Writing and Motivational Interviewing, which our team has extensively used and explored in the past. These techniques have been successfully used in numerous studies that have demonstrated their effectiveness in improving people’s mental and physical health.

Both strategies rely on the fundamental idea that by putting emotional upheavals into words, people can start to understand them better and therefore give them increasing feelings of control and provide a sense of coherence. For instance, in the original study that introduced Expressive Writing, it was found that compared with people who wrote about neutral topics, those who wrote about their traumas for 15-20 minutes a day showed reduced physician visits for illness, improvements in immune markers, and improvements in mental health over the next several months.

We now know that people can write in many different ways. Some studies find that writing for just a few minutes can be beneficial. Rather than write about traumatic experiences, most studies now have people write about issues that they are bothered by. If you find yourself thinking or worrying about something too much, writing may be a solution to get past it.

Expressive Writing and Motivational Interviewing Resources

There are a number of very good resources about expressive writing and motivational interviewing that can be helpful.

Broad overview of Expressive Writing. Check out this website that summarizes the expressive writing technique.

Broad overview of Motivational Interviewing. This is a summary of the motivational interviewing technique.


  1. Miller, W. and Rollnick, S. (2012), Motivational Interviewing,:Helping People Change. NY: Guilford Press.
  2. Pennebaker, J.W. & Smyth, J.M. (2016). Opening Up by Writing it Down. NY: Guilford Press.
  3. Pennebaker, J.W. & Evans, J.F. (2014). Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Enumclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor.

Selected Scientific Articles

  1. Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338-346.
  2. Pennebaker, J.W., & Chung, C.K. (2007). Expressive writing, emotional upheavals, and health. In H. Friedman and R. Silver (Eds.), Foundations of Health Psychology (pp. 263-284). New York: Oxford University Press.
  3. Pérez-Rosas, V. ​& Wu, X. & Resnicow, K. & Mihalcea, R., What Makes a Good Counselor? Learning to Distinguish between High-quality and Low-quality Counseling Conversations 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 2017.
  4. Pérez-Rosas, V. ​& Sun, X. & Li, C. & Wang, Y. & Resnicow, K. & Mihalcea, R. Analyzing the Quality of Counseling Conversations: the Tell-Tale Signs of Effective Counseling, 11th Language Resources and Evaluation Conference, 2018.
  5. Pérez-Rosas, V. ​& Mihalcea, R. & Resnicow, K. and Singh, S. and An, L. Understanding and Predicting Empathic Behavior in Counseling Therapy, 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 2017.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you find that you are extremely depressed, anxious, or in need of help, there are a number of resources available. Here is a partial list.

If you feel that you or someone you know is incapacitated by feelings of distress, please call a mental health hotline: For less severe experiences of anxiety and depression, especially if these feelings are related to COVID-19, a good place to begin is the website of the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC.

You can get additional tips for dealing with general anxiety and depression from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

During periods of stress, many people increase their use of drugs and alcohol. For help with substance abuse issues, check out the SAMHSA webpage.

If you live in the United States and you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call 911. If outside the US, call your medical emergency number.