The effects of an internet-based self-compassion writing intervention for adults with mental illness
Multiple studies have found that writing with self-compassion about a difficult event helps promote mental health and improve affect in college students and non-clinical populations (Johnson & O'Brien, 2013; Leary et al, 2007; Shapira & Mongrain, 2010). This study investigated whether a self-compassion writing intervention would lead to increases in self-compassion and proactive coping and reductions in depression and physical symptoms in a sample of individuals with different types of mental illness. This study also looked more broadly at the feasibility of conducting an online randomized trial on individuals with mental illness, including psychotic disorders, on Amazon MTurk. Individuals with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and/or depression on Amazon MTurk were recruited and randomly assigned to either a (1) treatment condition in which participants wrote with self-compassion or a (2) neutral condition in which participants wrote about how they spent their time. Participants were asked to write for 20 minutes each day for three consecutive days. Outcome measures were administered at baseline, after the three-day intervention, and one month later. Computerized linguistic analysis (LIWC; Pennebaker et al., 2015) was also used to analyze participants' writing to determine if the intervention had the intended effect. Both the treatment and control groups showed significant improvements in self-compassion, proactive coping, general mental health and physical health following the intervention and both groups showed significant improvements in self-compassion, proactive coping and general mental health between the post-test and 1-month follow-up. In addition, the self-compassion writing group's positive affect improved significantly more than the control group after the wave 1 writing intervention and the control group's negative affect improved significantly more than the self-compassion writing group after the wave 2 writing intervention. Overall, the results suggest both self-compassion writing and writing about how one spends one's time may be beneficial for individuals with mental illness with different needs. Moreover, it was found Amazon MTurk may not be a reliable platform for recruiting individuals with psychotic disorders, and that the prevalence of individuals with any mental illness on MTurk may be equal or greater than the prevalence of any mental illness in the general population.