Health care practitioners and families writing together: the three-minute mental makeover


Advocate Research Institute

Advocate Center for Pediatric Research, Advocate Children's Hospital


INTRODUCTION: Expressive writing, the process of self-expression through writing, appears to have beneficial effects. Our hospital's narrative medicine group developed an expressive writing tool, the Three-Minute Mental Makeover (3MMM).

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of the 3MMM to reduce stress and optimize communication between health care practitioners and their patients/families.

METHODS: Patients and families were recruited from a Chicago-area children's hospital from December 2016 through July 2017, from the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, inpatient pediatric unit, and outpatient pediatric clinics. Health care practitioners included a pediatric cardiologist, pediatric residents, child development specialists, and pediatric nurses. Practitioner and patient family participants completed prestudy and poststudy surveys to assess perceived stress and communication levels. Using a standardized script, practitioners led the 3MMM activity, writing concurrently with patients/families. Participants then shared their responses. Presurvey and postsurvey data were compared using nonparametric tests.

RESULTS: Eight practitioners led 96 patient/family members in 3MMM activities and study surveys. At baseline, all patients, family members, and practitioners reported experiencing 1 or more symptoms of stress. After participating in the 3MMM, patients/family members and practitioners reported reduced stress compared with baseline (p < 0.001). A significant improvement in communication was reported by practitioners (p < 0.001). Eighty-eight percent of patients/families reported that the 3MMM activity was helpful, even though only 35% had used writing or journaling in the past.

CONCLUSION: The 3MMM is a short writing exercise that reduces stress for practitioners, patients, and families. Future studies may help determine long-term effects of the 3MMM.

Document Type


PubMed ID


Link to Full Text