History and Mission Statement



Free Writing Classes at Iowa State University!

A six-week, on-line “Writing Through Change” course will be offered at Iowa State University this summer.  Writing Through Change encourages creativity and builds the skills of self-expression through short readings, journaling, and narrative and visualization exercises.  As part of the Patient Voice Project, it is funded by Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare.  For more information contact : Mary Swander
email: mswander@iastate.edu
tel: (515) 294-3373

cover shot of Patient Voice Project Anthology

To order a copy of the Patient Voice Project Anthology, please send $5.00 (cash or check made out to Arts Share) to

Arts Share
The University of Iowa
W113 Halsey Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242


The Patient Voice Project

The Patient Voice Project offers free creative writing classes to individuals with chronic and mental illness in the Iowa City area. Created by students at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and Arts Share, the classes are conducted in both one-on-one and group sessions and are intended for all age ranges and ability levels. Please contact us to schedule a class or learn more.

Patient Voice Project Brochure

Clinical research shows that a regular writing practice positively influences immune system response and stress levels. For the chronically and mentally-ill patients participating in the Patient Voice Project, we anticipate three outcomes:

•  To stimulate health and well-being benefits

•  To improve patient-doctor-family communication through directed writing assignments and self-expression

•  To better inform health care practitioners at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and Mercy Hospital about the human experience of chronic illness and mental illness by publishing the written testimonies

History and Mission Statement

"I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise..."

- Jane Kenyon, "Otherwise"

In spring 2005, the Patient Voice Project launched its pilot phase, conducting 14 individual classes and three group classes, for patients struggling with cancer, mental illness, digestive diseases, AIDS, and Huntington's Disease. Individual classes were offered locally at the University of Iowa Memorial Union, the Iowa City Public Library, and café settings.

For six weeks, for one hour a week, individual patients meet with M.F.A. graduate students from the Writers' Workshop for free creative writing classes.

Group classes take place at outpatient and inpatient health facilities (such as the Mid-Eastern Iowa Community Mental Health Center and Chatham Oaks) and support group settings. The pilot phase of the project was funded by a $10,000 grant from the Provost's Office and administered by Arts Share. The project continues to be funded by a grant from the Johnson and Johnson Society for the Arts in Healthcare Partnership to Promote Arts and Healing.

From a patient perspective, regular creative writing has shown therapeutic benefits such as improved immune system response (Esterling, Pennebaker, Kiecolt-Glaser) and diminished stress levels (Butcher).

Research Articles

These are the primary outcomes of the project. But these studies often treat patient writing simply as a trigger for measurable health benefits and ignore what is written. The Patient Voice Project foremost strives to encourage self-expression as well as to enhance the literary and emotive qualities of the writing itself.

Click here for some excerpts of patient writing

Click here a listing of Patient Voice selected reading


Johnson & Johnson/Society for the Arts in Healthcare

University of Iowa Provost's Office

Arts Share

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