Storytelling Plays Key Role in Many Kinds of Healing and Therapy

Storytelling can help people heal from trauma and more. I’ve come across a convergence of examples recently:

  • This article about narrative therapy is on a site about suicide prevention, though the article doesn’t seem to specifically address that issue. “The protagonist becomes the author and re-writes the story constructively,” writes Pedro Gondim. “… If a story is full of problems and negative events, the counsellor will attempt to identify the exceptional positive outcomes. When exploring unique positive outcomes in the story, the counsellor will assist the client in redeveloping the narrative with a focus on those unique outcomes.”
  • Real Warriors is “a program in which servicemembers can talk about and listen to the stories of those who sought help for psychological injuries or traumatic brain injuries.” In an article in Stars and Stripes, reporter Jeff Schogol quotes Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, director of the Defense Department Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, noted that “we’re all in this together — and to be able to tell the story of real warriors facing real battles both on as well as off the battlefield, with wounds both visible and invisible.” Center spokesman David Egner said the campaign” will include videotaping and distributing servicemembers stories about getting treatment as a way to motivate other wounded warriors to do the same.” Sutton recognized the program’s value when servicemembers told him the most important thing they got from the experience of sharing their stories: “…just to know that I wasn’t the only one.” Servicemembers can e-mail to express interest in telling their stories as part of the campaign.
  • “Singlemindedly” tells her story of recovery from binge eating but also discusses how storytelling functions in the program that facilitated her recovery:

    When it comes to storytelling, I guess it’s making myself vulnerable. I don’t have my story thought out before I start telling it. Every time I tell it, something new comes out — I need to hear myself say it to know what I’m going to say. This kind of vulnerability is fine before strangers and those I know only in programme, because they have similar experiences and can relate, therefore I am safe.

  • Kathryn Jennex writes about how a person with whom you share your story can take on an unexpectedly significant role. Jennex worked on a documentary about a teenage drug addict, who was subsequently arrested for robbery. Jennex writes: “Her community let her down. When the ‘fruit’ hit the fan, she called me, her filmmaker, her storyteller, not the people I might list on her bio.”
  • Consultant Cheri Baker writes about using the story-based discipline, Appreciative Inquiry, with a team that had just learned one of its leaders was diagnosed with a dire illness. Despite the pall that hung over the training session, sharing stories brightened the group’s mood; smiles and laughter erupted. Writes Baker: “Stories are not just examples. They can give us hope, courage, and the will to move on. Why else has storytelling been such an integral part of human civilization since the beginning? Our stories have power.”