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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 24, Issue 5

Writing in Third Person Can Spark Recovery

A change of perspective can offer solace

If a past ordeal continues to trouble you, try writing about it as if it happened to somebody else: “She crashed the car,” rather than “I crashed the car.” In a study that appeared in February in Stress and Health, doing so led to greater health gains for participants who struggled with trauma-related intrusive thinking, as measured by the number of days their normal activities were restricted by any kind of illness.

“Third-person expressive writing might provide a constructive opportunity to make sense of what happened but from a safe distance that feels less immediate and threatening,” says Matthew Andersson, a graduate student in social psychology at the University of Iowa and a co-author on the study.

This article was originally published with the title "Therapy in Third Person."

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