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Story Telling and the Emotional Component of Healing

Story Telling and the Emotional Component of Healing

In this age of the 15-minute appointment, it's difficult to address the emotional component of a patient’s condition. As we know, emotions can be integral to a patient’s sense of well-being, their healing, and the perception of quality health care. Many patients leave their doctor's office feeling rushed, not having had enough time to process information and ask appropriate questions. And fair or unfair, this can leave patients with the impression that clinicians are uncaring or unfeeling.

One way to address patients' emotional needs in a time-efficient way is through technology (ironic, isn't it). There are several tools/apps that can assist physicians with patients who are trying to cope with illness and potentially difficult treatment processes. Some have a support group feel, and others focus on patient engagement. The purpose of all of them, however, is that they give patients a platform to tell their story. Feeling "heard" can go a long way in patient care and healing.

The App HerStory

Created by behavioral scientist-turned-software exec Bob Quinn, HerStory is a new app for patients who need support while going through treatment. Still in testing, this app helps women dealing with breast cancer and mastectomy. (Other women’s disease categories will follow.) Built with input from patients, doctors, and support groups, HerStory allows patients to easily record their personal stories to help other breast cancer patients with advice and emotional help.

“Patients who have gone through similar situations can provide the greatest support,” says Quinn, who points out that the app is set up to review stories before they are published to make sure that the community is helpful and supportive.

Clinicians and behavioral scientists from Stanford and George Washington University have played a role in advising the developers of HerStory, which provides immediate, real-time support and practical advice via story telling and story sharing in a community of women going through the same challenges. For physicians looking for tools to help patients with emotional support outside of the office, this can be a helpful therapeutic tool.

“Research shows that with any illness, there is a tremendous need for social support,” says Dr. Sarah Adler, PsyD, clinical instructor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University Medical Center. “The mind has a significant impact on physical health. Support, empathy, and connections are fundamental to reducing the stress that comes with needing medical care.”

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