"What patients bring to their clinicians is their stories," writes behavioral scientist Thomas Egnew. It is through these stories that clinicians try to understand and treat patients' health. When patients experience chronic or life-threatening illness and their suffering increases, clinicians can take on the role of holistic healer by addressing the inevitable existential conflicts in patients' narratives and helping them edit their stories to promote acceptance and meaning. In this guiding role, Egnew explains, clinicians can help patients transcend suffering, "assume the mantle of their heritage as healers," and find meaning in their work.
A Narrative Approach to Healing Chronic Illness
Thomas R. Egnew, EdD, LICSW
University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington