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A Brief History of Narrative Health

Fri. June 07, 2019

By Diane Finlayson, M.A., C-IAYT, ERYT-500, Department Chair of Narrative Health

Back in 1994 Dr. Rachel Naomi Remens put together an early version of a book that could be said to revolve around the idea of Narrative Health. She asked if her patients would be willing to share their experience and resulting wisdom during their healing process from what medical professionals had told them were incurable diseases. She discovered that when these people had the space to be heard and to shape and share their stories with others a certain wholeness began to return to each of them, and with that wholeness came a bit of wisdom about our shared lives together.

Since 1994 writing and story have become an important part of the landscape of literature with an unprecedented rise in the popularity of memoir and non-fiction accounts of people’s lives. A sub-genre of this non-fiction movement can be what we would call the Narrative Medicine/ Narrative Health/ Expressive Writing movement. Narrative Medicine works to train doctors how to remember their patients are more than their diagnosis, that they are 3D people. Narrative Health helps patients shape and craft their stories for the broader understanding of health and wellness and Expressive Writing creates a space for personal writing and the journal form to collect ideas, impressions and emotions through which a person moves as they navigate the terrain of their (as Mary Oliver would say) “one and only life.” Pick up a pen, your well-being may depend upon it!

Maryland University of Integrative Health offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Narrative Health that prepares students with the skills and knowledge needed to understand the patient/client narrative as part of the healing process. It helps student use this as a diagnostic tool, method to prevent burn-out, and a form of care in itself. Learn more and register for our upcoming webinar on June 24 or attend our Integrative Health Grad Fair on July 27 to meet with faculty and students in our academic programs.