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Palliat Support Care. 2015 Apr;13(2):171-8. doi: 10.1017/S1478951513000710. Epub 2013 Oct 21.

Visible ink: A flexible and individually tailored writing intervention for cancer patients.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences,Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,New York, New York.
Visible Ink Writing Program,Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.New York, New York.



Subjective reports on the effectiveness of and satisfaction with writing interventions in medical populations have indicated that they can have a profound impact on patients. Further, past research on these programs has demonstrated that they can lead to a number of different positive outcomes depending on the personal characteristics of the participating patients and the type of writing with which they are tasked. For this reason, a flexible and individually tailored writing intervention may be particularly effective for patients, molding its approach to their desires and backgrounds. This paper examines Visible Ink, a writing program for cancer patients at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) that follows this model.


At Visible Ink's First Fall Writing Festival in November 2012, an optional survey was provided to all program participants in attendance, capturing both quantitative and qualitative information on patient experiences in the program. Twenty-nine surveys were completed.


The program appears to have a variety of positive effects, including fostering personal growth and providing a positive distraction. Respondents reported that they write in a number of different genres on topics both related and not related to their illnesses, which supports the flexible model of the program. All respondents indicated that they would recommend the program to others, and satisfaction with the program's general approach (i.e., individualized work with a writing coach) was unanimous. A few areas for potential improvement were also identified, most of which involved expanding the services and events offered by the program.


Despite the limitations of this survey (e.g., small sample size and low response rate), its results support the promise of the Visible Ink model and demonstrate participants' satisfaction with the program. Future research can more thoroughly examine Visible Ink's effectiveness, and additional resources could enable the program to expand.


Supportive care

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