More than 50,000 in print!
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Opening Up by Writing It Down

Third Edition
How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain

James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth

A Paperback Originale-bookprint + e-book
A Paperback Original
July 15, 2016
ISBN 9781462524921
Price: $16.95
210 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
June 29, 2016
ePub and PDF ?
Price: $16.95
210 Pages
print + e-book
A Paperback Original + e-Book (ePub and PDF) ?
Price: $33.90 $18.64
210 Pages

Expressing painful emotions is hard—yet it can actually improve our mental and physical health. This lucid, compassionate book has introduced tens of thousands of readers to expressive writing, a simple yet powerful self-help technique grounded in scientific research. Leading experts James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth describe how taking just a few minutes to write about deeply felt personal experiences or problems may help you:
Vivid stories and examples yield compelling insights into secrets, self-disclosure, and the hidden price of silence. The third edition incorporates findings from hundreds of recent studies and includes practical exercises to help you try expressive writing for yourself. It features extensive new information on specific health benefits, as well as when the approach may not be helpful.

“This stimulating text advocates a workable supplement to one’s professional practice and should be required reading for all therapists and counselors….Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals.”

Choice Reviews

“Intelligent and provocative.”

Kirkus Reviews (on the first edition)

“[A] delightfully readable and informative book on the relationship between inhibited emotion and disease states and the healing process of writing…[This book] can be used to support treatment. It is particularly useful in helping clients/patients increase their awareness of the effects of inhibited emotion and high- and low-level thinking strategies, and it is a natural support for therapeutic writing assignments.”

Psychosomatic Medicine (on the first edition)

“The power of expressing emotions is one of the most important discoveries psychologists have ever made. The authors blend scientific rigor with practical wisdom in an accessible book chock-full of insights. Write it down!”

—Shelley E. Taylor, PhD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles

“An absorbing account of expressive writing and how it works. This book is full of ideas and techniques that will benefit anyone who reads it.”

—Timothy D. Wilson, PhD, author of Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By

Opening Up by Writing It Down, Third Edition, is a wonderfully crafted blend of engaging examples and current scientific knowledge. The authors make a compelling case that people can improve their overall health and well-being by writing about troubling feelings and experiences. The book is fun and motivating, and it includes helpful exercises and suggestions to get you started on this path to wellness.”

—Dena Rosenbloom, PhD, author of Life After Trauma

“Fascinating. We learn that writing positively affects the immune system and can be a powerful tool in the treatment of trauma, psychological problems, and chronic disease. If you want to jump-start your brain, cleanse the mind, or resolve troublesome experiences, check out this classic book.”

—Susan M. Pollak, MTS, EdD, psychologist, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Opening Up is a revelation—a fascinating account of the science of expressive writing, from two researchers on the front lines of discovery. This book shines new light on old ideas about the therapeutic effects of emotional expression and offers important insights about how, when, and why words have healing power. Sparkling with data, intelligence, and humanity, this book is essential reading for students of psychology. It provides a review of the research literature rigorous enough for undergraduate and graduate courses in health psychology, emotions, stress and coping, and psychotherapy, and at the same time offers compelling examples, lucid analysis, and straightforward advice that speaks to us all. This is a book that can change your life.”

—Deborah A. Prentice, PhD, Department of Psychology, Princeton University

Table of Contents


1. “Shh … It's a Secret”: Beginning to Explore the Connection between Confession and Health

2. The Invention of the Expressive Writing Approach

3. What's on Your Mind?: Health Benefits of Verbal and Written Disclosure

4. Dealing with Chronic Health Problems Using Expressive Writing

5. Writing to Clear the Mind: Expressive Writing in Learning and Education

6. “Get These Thoughts Out of My Head!”: Getting Past Obsessions, Insomnia, and Bouts of Stupidity

7. To Speed Up or Slow Down?: How People Differ in Coping with Trauma

8. “I'm Here for You … or Am I?”: The Audience on the Other End of Our Words

9. How Does Writing Help Us Secure a Healthier and Happier Future?

10. Pulling It All Together: Recommendations for Your Use of Expressive Writing



About the Authors

James W. Pennebaker, PhD, the originator of expressive writing, is Regents Centennial Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Pennebaker conducts award-winning research and has published numerous books on the links between expressive writing and physical and mental health.

Joshua M. Smyth, PhD, is Professor of Biobehavioral Health and of Medicine at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Smyth has conducted extensive research on expressive writing and other innovative methods for promoting health and well-being and coping with stress.


Anyone interested in easy-to-use, science-based self-help strategies for enhancing health and well-being; also of interest to students and practitioners in psychology and other helping professions.
Previous editions published by Guilford:

Second Edition, © 1990
ISBN: 9781572302389