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Autobiography as Tool to Improve Lifestyle, Well Being, and Self-Narrative in Patients With Mental Disorders

Smorti, Andrea PhD; Pananti, Bianca; Rizzo, Aida

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: August 2010 - Volume 198 - Issue 8 - p 564-571
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181ea4e59
Original Articles

The aims of the present study were to explore how the autobiographical process can lead to a transformation in psychiatric patients' lifestyle, well-being, and self-narrative. Nine participants, aged between 20 and 42 years and affected by axis I psychiatric disorders (DSM IV) were selected to participate in an autobiographical laboratory. Eight to 10 meetings took place, each lasting about an hour, during which autobiographical accounts were collected. At the beginning and end of the autobiographical laboratory, the medical staff completed the Social Functioning Scale to evaluate each patient across 6 dimensions: social engagement, interpersonal ability, prosocial activities, recreation, independence-competence, and independence-performance. The Language Inquiry and Word Count (Pennebaker and Francis, 1996) was used to analyze patients' autobiographical accounts. A comparison between the first and second compilation of the Social Functioning Scale showed significant positive changes across the 6 social dimensions. The analysis of language in the narratives collected in the first and seventh meeting showed how inpatients passed from a narrative that was more centered on the memory of the past to a narrative that was more similar to a conversation and enriched with “insight” terms and the use of verbs in the conjunctive form. The authors interpret these outcomes as being consistent with the improvement that was observed in inpatients' social functioning.

Department of Psychology, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy.

Preparation of this article was primarily supported by the Florence Health Company (2007 grant).

Send reprint requests to Andrea Smorti, PhD, Department of Psychology, Via di San Salvi, 12, Complesso di San Salvi Padiglione 26, 50135 Firenze, Italy. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.