Expressive Helping for Bereavement

Phase-Based Progress Estimates
University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Expressive Helping - Behavioral
18 - 65
All Sexes
What conditions do you have?

Study Summary

Bereaved adolescents and emerging adults are at risk for developing psychological disorders and complicated grief. Clinical grief interventions and conventional wisdom reflect an implicit assumption that sharing and expressing one's feelings surrounding a loss (i.e., emotional disclosure) facilitates psychological adjustment. However, studies of emotional disclosure have yielded null results in bereaved samples. Individuals who have encountered stressful life events, including interpersonal loss, often report a desire to "give back" to others in similar situations. Empirical evidence suggests that providing support to others can be equally, if not more, beneficial than receiving support. The opportunity to support others experiencing stressful circumstances may address common feelings of powerlessness and engender a sense of meaning, enhancing positive affect and reducing distress. Interventions that leverage prosocial behaviors are associated with positive effects, including increases in wellbeing in non-bereaved populations. To date, no research has examined the utility of prosocial interventions for bereaved individuals. The present study tests a novel expressive helping intervention that combines elements of expressive disclosure and prosocial writing. Expressive helping will be compared to traditional expressive disclosure and a neutral writing control condition in a sample of bereaved young adults. Participants (N=156) will be randomized to one of three conditions-expressive disclosure, expressive helping, or a neutral writing control-and complete three weekly 20-minute writing sessions. Measures of psychological distress, well-being, and hypothesized mediators will be administered before, immediately following (within 48 hours of the final writing session), one month, and two months after the writing sessions. It is hypothesized that the participants in the expressive helping condition will evidence greater increases in well-being and decreases in grief-related distress at the one and two-month follow-ups, as compared to the other two groups.

Treatment Effectiveness

Effectiveness Progress

1 of 3

Study Objectives

2 Primary · 3 Secondary · Reporting Duration: Baseline (≤2 weeks of starting the intervention), post-intervention survey (≤1 week after the final writing assignment), the 1-month follow-up, and 2-month follow up.

Week 2
Change in Generativity
Change in Psychological Distance
Change in Universality
Week 2
Change in Anxiety
Change in Coping Tendency
Change in Depressive Symptoms
Change in Grief Reactions
Change in Physical Symptoms
Change in Wellbeing

Trial Safety

Safety Progress

1 of 3

Trial Design

3 Treatment Groups

Expressive Disclosure
1 of 3
Expressive Helping
1 of 3
1 of 3
Active Control
Experimental Treatment
Non-Treatment Group

178 Total Participants · 3 Treatment Groups

Primary Treatment: Expressive Helping · Has Placebo Group · N/A

Expressive Helping
Experimental Group · 1 Intervention: Expressive Helping · Intervention Types: Behavioral
Expressive Disclosure
ActiveComparator Group · 1 Intervention: Expressive Disclosure · Intervention Types: Behavioral
ShamComparator Group · 1 Intervention: Fact-Writing · Intervention Types: Behavioral
First Studied
Drug Approval Stage
How many patients have taken this drug
Expressive Helping

Trial Logistics

Trial Timeline

Approximate Timeline
Screening: ~3 weeks
Treatment: Varies
Reporting: baseline (≤2 weeks of starting the intervention), post-intervention survey (≤1 week after the final writing assignment), the 1-month follow-up, and 2-month follow up.

Trial Background

Brittanyke MA, CPhil, Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator
University of California, Los Angeles
Closest Location: University of California, Los Angeles · Los Angeles, CA
Photo of Los Angeles  1Photo of Los Angeles  2Photo of Los Angeles  3
2004First Recorded Clinical Trial
1 TrialsResearching Bereavement
216 CompletedClinical Trials

Eligibility Criteria

Age 18 - 65 · All Participants · 5 Total Inclusion Criteria

Mark “yes” if the following statements are true for you:
You feel comfortable writing in English.
You have experienced the death of a loved one within the last 5 years, but more than 6 months ago.
You have access to the Internet and a computer to complete the assessments and writing sessions.

About The Reviewer

Michael Gill preview

Michael Gill - B. Sc.

First Published: October 9th, 2021

Last Reviewed: August 12th, 2022

Michael Gill holds a Bachelors of Science in Integrated Science and Mathematics from McMaster University. During his degree he devoted considerable time modeling the pharmacodynamics of promising drug candidates. Since then, he has leveraged this knowledge of the investigational new drug ecosystem to help his father navigate clinical trials for multiple myeloma, an experience which prompted him to co-found Power Life Sciences: a company that helps patients access randomized controlled trials.