The present study examined the effectiveness of expressive writing in reducing drinking behavior. We expected that students prompted to write about negative drinking experiences would show greater decreases in future drinking intentions compared to the neutral and the positive writing conditions. We also expected that decreases in drinking intentions following the writing prompts might differ based on current drinking and AUDIT scores. Participants included 200 (76% female) undergraduates who completed measures of their current drinking behavior. They were then randomly assigned to either write about: a time when they had a lot to drink that was a good time (Positive); a time when they had a lot to drink that was a bad time (Negative); or their first day of college (Neutral), followed by measures assessing intended drinking over the next three months. Results revealed that participants intended to drink significantly fewer drinks per week and engage in marginally fewer heavy drinking occasions after writing about a negative drinking occasion when compared to control. Interactions provided mixed findings suggesting that writing about a positive event was associated with higher drinking intentions for heavier drinkers. Writing about a negative event was associated with higher intentions among heavier drinkers, but lower intentions among those with higher AUDIT scores. This research builds on previous expressive writing interventions by applying this technique to undergraduate drinkers. Preliminary results provide some support for this innovative strategy but also suggest the need for further refinement, especially with heavier drinkers. •An expressive writing intervention was used to reduce future drinking intentions.•Participants were given either a positive, negative, or neutral narrative prompt.•Writing about a negative drinking event led to decreased intended drinks per week.•This decrease in drinking intentions was found for those with high AUDIT scores.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health