Symptomatology related to trauma after the expressive writing technique: an exploratory study with Portuguese firefighters

Dália Marcelino, Maria João Figueiras


Objective: To assess whether there are differences in symptoms before and after an intervention to promote the emotional expression about critical incidents experienced during the fire-fighters work. Method: This was a longitudinal study with three assessment moments (M1, M2 and M3) being the expressive writing technique used between the 2nd and 3rd assessment. At assessment moments the 44 participants completed a questionnaire, with measures of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), peritraumatic dissociation, health complaints, mental health and socio-demographic variables. Results: All 44 fire-fighters had experienced critical incidents at work. From M1 to M2 there was only a significant increase in health complaints. After the expressive writing, there was a significant decrease of the perception of trauma reported by the fire-fighters, a decrease in reported symptoms of PTSD and dissociation symptoms, and in pseudoneurological complaints. In general, there was a tendency for all the negative symptoms to decrease over time and for an improvement in psychological well-being. Conclusions: This study presents a contribution for the promotion of emotional expression, through the use of the expressive writing technique, in order to minimize the risk of developing psychological disorders associated with critical incidents.


expressive writing; trauma; fire-fighters