A 2020 highlight was Ben’s interview with psychologist Jamie Pennebaker, Ph.D., Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and the world’s leading expert on expressive writing.  In fact, the focus of our conversation was on how best to integrate expressive writing into your work as a coach, helping professional, educator, etc.  Jamie is the author or editor of 12 books and over 300 scientific articles including The Secret Life of Pronouns and with Joshua Smyth, Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain.

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About James W. Pennebaker, PhD

Jamie Pennebaker, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized social psychologist who’s endlessly curious about human nature.   He is Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

In his earlier work, Jamie learned that keeping secrets can make people sick. This work led to his discovery that people could improve their physical and mental health by writing about their deepest secrets, which is now widely known as expressive writing.

He’s also become intrigued by how people reveal themselves in their everyday spoken and written language.

He’s a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers and a consultant to businesses, medical schools, and various federal agencies that address corporate and national security issues. Jamie is the author or editor of 12 books and over 300 scientific articles. He ranks among the most cited researchers in psychology, psychiatry, and the social sciences.

Jamie grew up in Midland, Texas. He has been married to the accomplished writer Ruth Pennebaker since 1972. His daughter Teal works in communication and public policy in Washington, D.C. and his son Nick is involved in oil and gas exploration in Austin, Texas.

About Opening Up by Writing It Down: How Expressive Writing Improves Health and Eases Emotional Pain–Third Edition

Expressing painful emotions can improve the mental and physical health of our clients and ourselves. This lucid, compassionate book has introduced tens of thousands of readers to expressive writing, a simple yet powerful technique grounded in scientific research. Leading experts James W. Pennebaker and Joshua M. Smyth describe the benefits that can accrue from taking just a few minutes to write about deeply felt personal experiences or problems such as helping us:

  • Heal old emotional wounds
  • Feel a greater sense of well-being
  • Decrease stress
  • Improve relationships
  • Boost your immune system
  • And much more.

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.

Reviews of Opening Up by Writing It Down

“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

“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

Jamie’s University of Texas webpage.

Jamie in Wikipedia.

Pennebaker, J., Seagal, J. (1999). “Forming a story.  The health benefits of narrative.”  Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Expressive Writing: A Tool for Transformation.  Recorded interview.

Pennebaker, J. (2017). Expressive writing in psychological science.

Jamie on Twitter.  @jwpennebaker

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