Appreciative Inquiry and Critical Thought draw increasingly closer together, like the two hemispheres of the brain becoming whole. The zeitgeist of transformation moves so swiftly that it almost seems a new medical benefit of creativity surfaces every day. New results appear citing the effects of creative, expressive, and reflective writing on healing. Results range from narrative practice’s increasing empathy scores over time (Chen et al 2012) to reduced symptoms of myocardial infarction (Willmott et al 2011). Narrative Healthcare speaks to identifying the waymarkers for this ongoing current of change.

Lenoir-Rhyne University Narrative Healthcare Certificate Program

Narrative Medicine: Narrative Medicine applies Narrative Theory to the context of the clinical care. A protocol for intervention in the loss of empathy experienced during medical training Narrative Medicine employs close reading, reflective writing, and witnessing to develop our ability to attend to, interpret, metabolize and be moved by patient stories. The Narrative Medicine modules of this program are grounded the work and teachings of Dr. Rita Charon and her team at the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University Program for Physicians and Surgeons.

Expressive Writing: Expressive Writing invites patients, providers, and caregivers to apply various modes of writing to healing. Supported by facilitators, individuals develop meaning from trauma and stress. Students of Expressive Writing discover data supporting writing’s ability to reduce anxiety and increase resilience. The Narrative Heatlhcare Program works closely with John Evans, co-author with James Pennebaker, of Transform Your Health: Writing to Heal, and facilitator for Duke Integrative Medicine workshops on Expressive Writing.

Poetic Medicine: Based in the work of John Fox of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, explorations in Poetic Medicine include study of metaphor as transformative agents in healing. Students write and read poems of witness and experience while learning about Poetic Medicine programs.

Arts in Medicine: Arts in Medicine programs such as that at Shands Hospital at University of Florida integrate arts into healthcare. Murals on hospital walls, guitarists strumming Bach at bedside, creative writing sessions, dance despite disability all enrich patient experience of illness and help them discover personal paths to healing beyond diagnosis. Students are encouraged to envision and create programs.

Medical Humanities: Medical Humanities Programs have co-existed with medical education for decades. Their purpose is to encourage providers to see the whole human when treating pathologies. As with Narrative Medicine, students view films and paintings and read stories. Such works address illness and healing, the interior experience of healthcare.

The relationship between story, poetry, and healing endures across the ages. A network of programs keeps this bond alive even in an age of highly technological healthcare.  Evidence-based data encourage the proliferation of these programs. The Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative’s Narrative Healthcare team is one of many vehicles for incorporating story into clinical care. You will find that different programs offer their own approaches and modalities. For instance, at The Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative, the key approach is through Creative Writing.  Explore these fellow programs in the healthcare sphere to discover more. We are always building this list so please send additions.


Lenoir-Rhyne University Certificate in Narrative Healthcare and future MFA

The Alan Alda Center for Science Communication

The Columbia University Program in Narrative Medicine

Stanford University Medicine and the Muse

University of Toronto Health Arts and the Humanities

UNC Health and Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Venue for Exploration

Conferences, past and future

Medicine Beyond Medication, Asheville, NC 2019

The Examined Life Conference

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