The Importance of Story

I plan to respond to all the intriguing comments that have recently been posted about loneliness, aloneness, marriage conditions, and happiness. I have been trying to organize my thoughts so I can manage a cogent reply.

Until I get that together, I wanted to post another article I read in the NYTimes that says so much that I find important, for our discussion of the show and in general. Please read

First of all, for many years my contention has been that doctors can learn from not only the stories their patients tell, but also from stories told by highly observant writers. My literary studies have focused on 19th century literature where, I believe, we can find all sorts of perceptive work on disorders that were unnamed at the time. Many writers described signs and symptoms of nascent and previously unrecognized conditions that have now become well defined.

Secondly, the article makes a strong case for listening to patients and using anecdotal evidence as a means of transferring meaningful data to other doctors. I am excited that the NEJM published a report that stated “stories are better at capturing a different type of ‘big picture.'” I would apply this dictum to the show by drawing analogies among the stories we hear, read, or view on TV. We can learn from the examples of various conditions referred to on this show. The main thrust of the show is not to inform about medical problems; however, all of us are expanding our knowledge of these sorts of issues as its audience. We are also better able to grasp all of this information because of how it’s delivered. And that includes what we’ve been discussing recently about mid-life concerns.

Moreover, the article mentions the subject of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how it has become a popular treatment protocol. What Kramer argues is that change can come from listening to case vignettes and from including stories in the overall treatment plan. We know that CBT was used with Mrs. T and probably Joe Penhale. There’s no question that it can be very effective, but I like the idea of integrating storytelling with other forms of psychotherapy. I also like how this article dovetails with our discussion of what might happen in counseling sessions that Martin and Louisa may participate in. Their stories are what the show is about, and we have yet to really hear them.

Originally posted 2014-10-19 15:35:10.

8 thoughts on “The Importance of Story

  1. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    This form of therapy sounds really interactive and appeals to me. Thanks for telling me about it.

  2. Santa Traugott

    I’m watching Boardwalk Empire to its conclusion. (It’s about a million light years away in subject and tone from Doc Martin.) But they have chosen to spend large chunks of what has been announced as the last season, in telling the back story of the lead character — interspersing it here and there in appropriate places. It has been surprisingly effective, both darkening and deepening my sense of Nucky Thompson. So I agree — I’d really be interested in these “back stories” coming to light for Martin and Louisa.

  3. Maria

    Just today, I read about a form of therapy called ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – that I thought found very interesting, particularly in light of our ongoing discussion about psychology/therapy in general and the recent one about Buddhism in particular. ACT seems to have some similarities with narrative therapy as well. It combines Buddhist concepts of acceptance and mindfulness with western (particularly CBT) concepts of behavioral change. Apparently, it is intended primarily as a short-term therapy for treatment of disorders like depression and anxiety.

    Here are some articles for a general audience:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptance_and_commitment_therapy
    http://www.thehappinesstrap.com/about_act
    http://contextualscience.org/act

    And of course, there are plenty of scholarly articles on the topic as well.

  4. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    Thanks, Maria. BTW, if you wondered why your comment didn’t appear, I’m having trouble figuring it out too. Usually once I approve someone, all of the comments that follow are immediately published. I’m still learning how to manage a blog and I apologize for any strange things that happen.

  5. Maria

    Oh, I’m sure at least half of anything that seems to go wrong is general Internet capriciousness. The blog was down for a while this afternoon, for instance, at least on any browser I tried. I think you’re doing a great job managing it. And my prose is hardly so deathless that it can’t wait for a couple of hours to appear. : )

  6. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    I noticed the site was not available for a while too. I have no control over that, of course. I had some trouble with my home internet connection being unavailable this week too. I guess we are all at the mercy of the internet connections!

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