Applications of Narrative Theory and Therapy to the Practice of Family Medicine

Johanna Shapiro, PhD; Valerie Ross, MS

This article presents narrative theory and therapy as an approach with significant potential for providing family physicians with additional tools to assist them in dealing with difficult clinician-patient encounters. We first define narrative therapy, then briefly describe its theoretical assumptions in relation to psychosocial concepts already familiar to family physicians. Important aspects of narrative therapy are examined, including the unique role of questioning in the narrative process; understanding and helping patients change their problem-saturated stories; renaming and externalizing the patient problem; and the use of rituals, documents, and audience in recognizing and reinforcing patient change. The article concludes with thoughts about how narrative approaches can contribute to more-healing doctor-patient relationships.

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