This between groups quasi experimental study examined the efficacy of Pennebaker's Written Expression Paradigm (WEP; Pennebaker & Beall, 1986) as a multiculturally responsive therapeutic intervention among Peruvian high school students who grew up in Ayacucho during the Sendero Luminoso's guerilla insurgency. Journaling about prior traumatic experiences eludes many of the cultural and contextual limitations of the traditional Euro therapeutic model; enabling a person to disclose their deepest thoughts and emotions privately, without expense, and at the time and location they choose. It was hypothesized that written expression would be perceived by local participants as less value threatening than traditional psychotherapy, allowing for increased disclosure of prior traumatic life events and a resulting decrease in depressive symptoms, somatic symptoms, negative affect, and increased positive affect, operationalized by the CES-D-18, BSI-21, and the SPANAS negative and positive scales (consecutively). Changes were assessed from pretest to posttest between the experiemental WEP group which was asked to write about prior traumatic events and their associated emotions, and the control group which was asked to write only about designated superficial topics. Promising trends were seen in the present study's data results that support the potential effectiveness of Pennebaker's written expression task for high school students in Ayacucho, Peru. However, an increase in reported somatic symptomology among the WEP group was the only significant effect obtained in the results. This finding may be representative of an improvement in participant well being and experiential awareness due to its positive correlation with WEP group participants' value ratings of the experience at posttest. It may also be a result of culture specific response styles and differential content validity across measures utilized in the present study. Based on these findings and the WEP's feasibility for communities with limited economic and mental health resources, further exploration of the WEP in multicultural settings appears warranted. Future considerations for multiculturally focused research are also presented.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Diaries; Psychic trauma

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Harrell, Shelly P.;