SM510M.3

The Healing Power of Stories: Narrative Theory and Narrative Pra

Sites: MGH
Director(s): Anne Brewster, Alberto Puig
Offered: April Closed 2019-2020
Location: MGH - Mass. General Hospital (3)
Open to Exclerks: No (HMS only)
Description: Annie Brewster, MD �99 and Jonathan Adler, PhD will co-teach this elective, which will offer students a solid foundation in the social science research on the health benefits of narrative through readings and didactic sessions, as well as experience working directly with patients and their loved ones, under supervision, to apply this knowledge. It is relevant for students pursuing any specialty. The didactic component of the elective includes assigned readings drawn from the interdisciplinary literature on narrative and health, with an emphasis on the empirical social science literature, writing exercises, and a once-weekly two-hour seminar. The applied work will occur in collaboration with Health Story Collaborative (HSC), a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Brewster with the goal of using storytelling for therapeutic purposes. Elective participants will work within two of HSC's existing programs: The Healing Story Sessions program and the SharingClinic program. Healing Story Sessions (HSS) are live storytelling events. Elective participants will spend time preparing for and ultimately participating in a Patient-Provider Story Session (there is also a Patient-Patient version). Dr. Brewster and Dr. Adler will oversee this process, from story writing to story sharing. On a designated evening, patient-provider pairs will come together to share their stories in front of invited guests, including other medical students, facilitated by Dr. Brewster and Dr. Adler. SharingClinic is an evolving collaboration between HSC and MGH which involves hospital-based listening kiosks where patients, their loved ones, health care providers can access pre-recorded audio stories focused on the emotional experience of facing health challenges. Students will work for two hours each week at MGH in designated clinics and inpatient units to collect audio stories for SharingClinic. Dr. Brewster will supervise this process. This will provide students with valuable direct experience with patient narrative and an opportunity to contribute to an on-going project.
Incorporation of Basic Science Content and Evidence-Based Medicine:
Didactic sessions will focus on existing research. There is a tradition of research in the social sciences broadly subsumed under the label �the narrative study of lives� (e.g., Lieblich & Josselson, 1997). This interdisciplinary body of scholarship is grounded in the theory of narrative identity, which suggests that identity is best conceived of as an internalized and evolving personal story of the self (e.g., McAdams, 1995; McAdams & McLean, 2013). Individuals weave their experiences into narrative form in order to provide the self with a sense of unity and purpose over time (e.g., McAdams, 2001; McLean, Pasupathi, & Pals, 2007). In the past several decades an impressive body of mixed-methods research on narrative identity has clearly demonstrated the central tenets of this theory as well as documented the powerful and unique associations between characteristics of these self-stories and important life outcomes such as mental and physical health (e.g., Adler, 2012; Adler, et al., in press; Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999), morality (e.g., Frimer et al., 2011), developmental concerns (e.g., Habermas & Bluck, 2000; McAdams et al., 2001), and meaning-making (King & Hicks, 2006), among many more. The field has focused especially on identifying key thematic elements of personal narratives that differentially impact psychological well-being, with the goal of pinpointing the specific features of self-stories that best support mental health (Adler et al., in press). This is Dr. Adler�s primary focus and he, along with his colleagues, has documented the special potency of certain narrative themes, such as personal agency (Adler, 2012), narrative coherence (Adler et al., 2013), and redemption (Adler & Poulin, 2009). A recent paper by Dr. Adler and eight co-authors presents the first data, collected from two community-based longitudinal studies of mid-life adults over several years, to suggest that different ways of narrating one�s life challenges can be especially adaptive in the face of physical health challenges (Adler et al., 2015). He specializes in mixed-methods research that blends rich narrative analysis with sophisticated statistical modeling techniques to derive insights about the dynamic relationships between narrative identity and health.
Grade Criteria:
Honors with Distinction: Students will demonstrate especially deep engagement with both the didactic and applied components of the course as evidenced through active participation in class discussion, critical writing, open and empathic participation in clinical activities, and thoughtful reflection on the course experiences. Excellence across all of these course experiences will merit Honors with Distinction.
Honors: Students will demonstrate appropriate engagement with both the didactic and applied components of the course and excellence in one of these two components. Active participation in class discussion, critical writing, open and empathic participation in clinical activities, and thoughtful reflection on the course experiences will be evaluated and especially strong performance in two or more of these experiences will merit Honors.
Satisfactory: Students will demonstrate appropriate engagement with both the didactic and applied components of the course. Active participation in class discussion, critical writing, open and empathic participation in clinical activities, and thoughtful reflection on the course experiences will be evaluated and appropriate engagement in each experience will merit a grade of Satisfactory.
Unsatisfactory: Students will demonstrate less-than-appropriate engagement with either the didactic and/or applied components of the course. Failure to complete written assignments, disengagement with class discussion, or anything less than complete professional participation in the clinical components will warrant a grade of Unsatisfactory.