Narrative Medicine Highlighted in Pacific Standard Magazine

In Pacific Standard magazine, writer Alissa Wilkinson explores the proven healing power of confession, and the significance of bearing witness. Which begs the question – to whom does one confess? “What happens in the act to the one hearing the confessor—the intermediary?” Wilkinson writes.

That’s where the Narrative Medicine discipline comes in. Wilkinson writes that narrative medicine illuminates “the capacity to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness." Of the program’s director, Dr. Rita Charon, she writes, “Charon delves into the effect of these confessions of pain on the patient, as well as the doctor. ‘By becoming a recognizing vessel...the doctor can ‘receive’ the patient, acting as a container for a flow of great value or, with a different image, registering a transmitted radio signal from far away.’”

Wilkinson says, “The listening physician does act as confessor, literally offering the possibility of healing. But there is more to that relationship than just a patient/doctor power dynamic; the doctor, too, develops something new through the experience. In the Hedgehog Review, Bruenig characterizes confessional writing in much the same way. ‘By holding up her own pathologies,’ she points out, the writer ‘can make herself into a kind of mirror that is meant to show others what they are.’”

Read more about the M.S. program in Narrative Medicine.