Writing & Health Initiative

Research - Practice - Education

Director: Nancy Morgan, MA-TLA

Patients and their families at the Lombardi Cancer Center frequently report that the emotional impact of cancer can be as challenging as the physical effects. Emotions must be addressed to insure optimum response to cancer treatment and recovery.

Self expression is essential to optimum emotional health. Life crises can be effectively managed using a variety of avenues of expression that culminate in written or spoken language. The Writing and Health Initiative explores links between arts, language, and health to identify effective strategies for encouraging emotional expression and good health.

"When I write about cancer I feel positive feelings - that I am winning this battle and can feel more positive about my future and I will be around to see my children grow up."


Lombardi is a leader in complementary medicine for cancer patients, with a fully developed Arts and Humanities Program. For eight years the writing program has helped patients come to terms with their illness, articulate their needs to family and medical staff, and regain control of their lives. The lessons learned about writing and health at Lombardi are applicable to all people in crisis, and relate to prevention as well. Learning to use writing as a coping tool is excellent preparation for facing all life's challenges.

Writing is a cost effective, accessible, and private method for alleviating emotional distress. Regardless of cultural beliefs, financial means, access to counseling or family support, people can engage in writing for therapeutic expression and relief in the form of:

  • reduced anxiety and stress
  • renewed sense of identity and purpose
  • improved communication
  • restored sense of control
  • enhanced sleep quality
  • diminished awareness of pain and other side effects

Twenty years of research, including studies at Lombardi, provide evidence that writing about thoughts and feelings may improve emotional and physical health.

The Writing and Health Initiative will expand on existing research, contributing further evidence of the health benefits of writing.