Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 7 Issue 5 (December 1997), Pages 329-428

Diaries of significant events: socio‐linguistic correlates of therapeutic outcomes in patients with addiction problems (pages 389-411)


The principles of narrative therapy imply that autobiographical diaries written by patients in treatment will not only facilitate but also elucidate progress. The relationship between the linguistic content of diaries and progress in treatment was examined in this study. Complete sets of daily diaries of ‘significant events’ written by 16 patients receiving treatment for drug, alcohol and food addictions at a residential centre, using the 12‐step approach of the Anonymous fellowships, were typed up for analysis. Three forms of socio‐linguistic enquiry were employed: narrative characterization; evaluative statement coding and computer analysis of word strategies. Results indicated that success in treatment as rated by counselling and psychiatric staff was associated with the following characteristics of diary narratives. They are (a) focused on individual progress, whether adopting a ‘positive interpretative’ or ‘negative reactive’ style; (b) less critical of self over time and more positive about others external to the treatment centre; (c) both positive about the treatment programme and critical of self; (d) using words indicative of ‘insight’ and ‘negativity’ as assessed by Pennebaker's LIWC programme. It is concluded that autobiographical material can usefully be employed to assess progress in treatment, and that its intrinsic value in effecting change should be further explored. © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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