The power of stories in medicine

The power of stories in medicine

I recently came across an interesting New York Times article about the healing power of storytelling.  The full article can be accessed (Click here)

As I perused the article, I was reminded that it was not the first time I had read about the use of narrative in the world of medicine.

In fact, in my various research projects, I have seen that storytelling and medicine are linked in several ways.  For example, studies of how physicians make diagnoses have demonstrated that the process is actually more narrative than rational, despite the deductive and scientific training of medical school.  As doctors consult with patients, they tend to generate stories and scenarios from the beginning of the conversation, and then used these scenarios to direct their examinations.  Then, patients often make sense of the diagnosis by creating their narratives, and by listening to the narratives of others with similar health problems.

While it has long been understood that patients and doctors exchange stories during consultations, the actual impact of storytelling on the healing process has been difficult to gauge.   Now, a recent study by the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that for at least one group of patients with hypertension, listening to personal narratives was as effective as increased medication in controlling blood pressure levels.

Studies like this one are further proof that our stories frame our reality, and that they may even have the power to change our reality.  Since telling and listening to stories is the way we make sense of our lives, can we logically conclude that they might indeed be able to improve our health?  In any case, this article provides interesting food for thought, and it will be exciting to follow further research in this arena.

1 Comment

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