Expressive writing intervention promotes resilience among juvenile justice-involved youth

Chloe A. Greenbaum, Shabnam Javdani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Youth involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems suffer from alarmingly high rates of mental health challenges. In particular, exposure to trauma (e.g., maltreatment) is one critical experience that amplifies their risk for delinquency and recidivism. Despite a profound need to address these youth's mental health needs, there is a paucity of trauma-informed and youth-centered treatments that are clinically feasible in under-resourced residential settings (e.g., juvenile detention facilities). In response to this gap, our research team collaborated with the juvenile justice subsection of a large American city's child welfare system with the goal of creating an intervention tailored to the needs of underserved system-involved youth. The resultant program, WRITE ON (Writing and Reflecting on Identity To Empower Ourselves as Narrators), leverages research on the therapeutic benefits of expressive writing to implement a brief, cost-effective intervention in youth residential settings. This paper describes intervention development and presents findings from the pilot study, which comprised a multisite experimental evaluation of youth (N = 53) residing in short-term detention facilities. This pilot study aimed to: 1) assess intervention implementation fidelity, including participant satisfaction, and 2) evaluate the mental health outcomes of youth receiving WRITE ON as compared to those in a comparison support group (CSG). Results indicated that the intervention was delivered with good fidelity, participants reported high levels of satisfaction, and WRITE ON participants exhibited significant (p < 0.01) gains in resilience compared to their counterparts in the CSG. Collectively, results suggest that a larger clinical trial investigating the effectiveness of WRITE ON with system-involved youth is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-229
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Adolescents
  • Child welfare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Program evaluation
  • Resilience
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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