Document Type




Format of Original

10 p.

Publication Date



American Psychological Association

Source Publication

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, Policy

Source ISSN



Objective: Many narrative interventions require participants to write about trauma and adverse experiences, but some research suggests that open-ended topic prompts can also be effective. In this study, we investigated the topics participants chose to write about in a values-narrative program that offered wide discretion in topic and theme, and explored how that was associated with perceptions of investment and impact. Method: Participants were 717 individuals (68% women) from the rural South, United States who had participated in a values-narrative program. Results: Almost half of the narratives (44%) focused on an adverse experience as part of the development of their personal values. Other personal stories were also common (37%), and only 19% wrote a narrative not connected to a personal life experience. Participants who had more exposure to family or peer victimization were more likely to write about adversity. Participants who wrote about adversity and shared their narratives with others reported more positive and fewer negative impacts. Encouragement and more time writing were also associated with better outcomes. Conclusion: When given the choice of essay topic, participants who chose to write about an adverse event were likely to have had a more meaningful writing experience. Values narratives offer a potentially important opportunity for incorporating narrative into primary prevention programs, because they can be used with groups that include individuals who have and have not experienced adversity. Narratives have been shown to be a powerful psychological intervention and expanding to primary prevention holds considerable promise. Further, they do not require prior disclosure of adversity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)


Accepted version. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, Vol. 8, No. 4 (July 2016): 477-486. DOI. © 2016 American Psychological Association. Used with permission.

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