University of Tasmania

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Narrating psychological distress: Associations between cross-clausal integration and mental health difficulties

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 09:11 authored by Zinken, J, Blakemore, C, Zinken, K, Butler, L, Skinner, TC
Psychological research has emphasized the importance of narrative for a person's sense of self. Building a coherent narrative of past events is one objective of psychotherapy. However, in guided self-help therapy the patient has to develop this narrative autonomously. Identifying patients' narrative skills in relation to psychological distress could provide useful information about their suitability for self-help. The aim of this study was to explore whether the syntactic integration of clauses into narrative in texts written by prospective psychotherapy patients was related to mild to moderate psychological distress. Cross-clausal syntax of texts by 97 people who had contacted a primary care mental health service was analyzed. Severity of symptoms associated with mental health difficulties was assessed by a standardized scale (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation outcome measure). Cross-clausal syntactic integration was negatively correlated with the severity of symptoms. A multiple regression analysis confirmed that the use of simple sentences, finite complement clauses, and coordinated clauses was associated with symptoms (R2 =.26). The results suggest that the analysis of cross-clausal syntax can provide information on patients' narrative skills in relation to distressing events and can therefore provide additional information to support treatment decisions.


Publication title

Applied Psycholinguistics: Psychological Studies of Language Processes








Tasmanian School of Medicine


Cambridge University Press

Place of publication

40 West 20th St, New York, USA, NY, 10011-4211

Rights statement

Copyright © 2011 Cambridge University Press

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Socio-economic Objectives

Clinical health not elsewhere classified