The Power of a Story
As child life specialists, we know that every patient has their own story. A unique series of events, challenges, and triumphs leading up to their health care experience that day. Learning their stories helps us to provide more meaningful interventions to help them cope and increase mastery. Sharing their stories with the medical team can help the hospital as a whole provide more patient and family-centered compassionate care.
Patients can also learn from each other’s stories and the stories of those who may have experienced similar circumstances in the past. Reading books, blogs, and stories of those who have faced similar circumstances can help patients improve their own coping and problem solving skills, advocate for themselves, expand their thinking and perspective; and gain the courage to share their own stories. Above all, by connecting with the stories of others patients may feel less isolated and alone in the challenges they face.
I believe the process of telling and sharing stories is like a circuit. A pathway between various points along which information and energy can be passed. When a person shares their story, they release information and energy into the world and a pathway begins. That information and energy can then be received by a medical professional, another patient, or the general public producing insight, awareness, or even a renewed sense of hope. The story can then produce some sort of change, expanding the circuit. A change in the approach of a medical professional. A change in the increased ability to cope or lessened feelings of isolation for a patient. As the circuit expands, energy is passed back to the original storyteller in the form of empowerment. Though the opportunity to tell your story can be therapeutic in it’s own right, the opportunity to create awareness and the possibility of producing change can hold even greater therapeutic benefit.
As child life specialists, we have the opportunity to help patients explore and expand these circuits. We can offer bibliotherapy interventions to our teen patients to provide them with a story to connect. We can offer narrative medicine and expression based outlets for our patients to tell their own story. We can also take this one step further and encourage them to continue telling their story whether to advocate for themselves, create awareness, or produce change.
Using the Blog
Child Life Story Circuit is an online resource for child life specialists with ideas for such interventions. Here you will find reviews of young adult books and memoirs to help narrow your search for the right bibliotherapy recommendation for your patient. You will also find therapeutic expression and narrative medicine based activities to use in conjunction with bibliotherapy or as stand alone interventions.
As this is a resource for professionals, I welcome dialogue in using these interventions and encouraging the expansion of story circuits in the health care setting. Please feel free to contact me directly or to comment on posts to foster that discussion.