Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process

Excerpts & Samples

By Lewis Mehl-Madrona

Publisher : Inner Traditions/Bear & Company

ABOUT Lewis Mehl-Madrona

Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Lewis Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D., is certified in family practice, geriatrics, and psychiatry and worked for years in rural emergency medicine. He is currently an associate professor of family medicine and psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan and is the author of Narrative Medicine, More...



Seeks to restore the pivotal role of the patient’s own story in the healing process

• Shows how conventional medicine tends to ignore the account of the patient

• Presents case histories where disease is addressed and healed through the narrative process

• Proposes a reinvention of medicine to include the indigenous healing methods that for thousands of years have drawn their effectiveness from telling and listening

Modern medicine, with its high-tech and managed-care approach, has eliminated much of what constitutes the art of healing: those elements of doctoring that go beyond the medications prescribed. The typically brief office visit leaves little time for doctors to listen to their patients, though it is in these narratives that disease is both revealed and perpetuated--and can be released and treated.

Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s Narrative Medicine examines the foundations of the indigenous use of story as a healing modality. Citing numerous case histories that demonstrate the profound power of narrative in healing, the author shows how when we learn to dialogue with disease, we come to understand the power of the “story” we tell about our illness and our possibilities for better health. He shows how this approach also includes examining our relationships to our extended community to find any underlying disharmony that may need healing. Mehl-Madrona points the way to a new model of medicine--a health care system that draws its effectiveness from listening to the healing wisdom of the past and also to the present-day voices of its patients.
"Lewis Mehl-Madrona is an extraordinarily gifted physician and healer. I saw him transform the lives of profoundly affected patients. Mostly, he was sitting next to them, listening carefully and telling them stories. I was amazed."
David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, author of Instinct to Heal

“Some people say that we are made of molecules and cells, but Lewis Mehl-Madrona insists that we are made of stories. Stories involve a whole person in a historical context and in a whole environment. This more expansive view of ourselves is more true-to-life and real. Dr. Mehl-Madrona teaches us to learn our own story and to use it to heal ourselves and to appreciate our own soul’s path.”
Dana Ullman, MPH, author of The Homeopathic Revolution and coauthor of Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines

“Dr. Mehl-Madrona’s work with Narrative Medicine is both powerful and exciting. He meets each patient as a unique individual instead of a diagnosis. He provides story after story of successes that are not within the normal spectrum of modern medicine, and breaks down narrative medicine into components so we may catch a glimpse of how it achieves its success. He brings the reader back to listening and compassion, the two human aspects of medicine that are crucial to the doctor-patient relationship. His view of medicine and healing expands how one looks at the illness, health, and community.”
Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D., MPH, CCFP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona

“It is clear from Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s work that healing is far too complex a process to entrust to the western medical profession. And in opening the door to indigenous voices from outside these professional doors, the present volume is both illuminating and invaluable. My hope is that this book will serve as a beacon and an inspiration for the broadest collaboration in defining and enriching our orientations to health, illness, and cure.”
Kenneth J. Gergen, Mustin Professor of Psychology, Swarthmore College

“Stanford Medical School trained Mehl-Madrona invokes the philosophy of his Cherokee and Lakota ancestors to remind us that the path to redemption for today’s health care world is to honor the patient’s life story with all of its elements of culture, community, family, health beliefs, spirituality, and individuality. Mehl-Madrona’s narrative contribution is possibly the most inclusive philosophy ever proposed in medicine. “After reading Narrative Medicine, when we come face-to-face with that terrible question, ‘Doc, how long have I got to live?’ we will know that the answer cannot be found in a statistic or the natural history of a disease, but depends upon your unique story--the one told up until this point and especially the one authored from this point onward.”
Farrell Silverberg, Ph.D., author of Make the Leap: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Patterns That Hold You Back

“Our stories bring us comfort and help us become acquainted with our unanticipated dreams and fears. Narrative Medicine helps us connect to this personal taproot enhancing our understanding of how we can find our way back to wellness in crisis.”
Roberta Lee, Continuum Center for Health and Healing, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York

"Addressing shamanism, quantum physics, critical theory, and more, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers, including healing practitioners . . ."
Blanche Angelo, Library Journal Xpress Reviews, July 2007

"The author writes very well, weaving examples throughout, as well as stories from a variety of cultures, showing how he uses stories in his practice with actual patients."
D. Tigermoon, The Pagan Review, Nov 2007

"Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona presents us with a sincere and well-researched case for a new approach to mental and physical health. . . . as well as cutting-edge sociological developments in transformational studies."
David Paulsen, New Age Retailer, Jan 2008

"It is quite refreshing to read the perspective of a health-care practitioner who can draw on his own cultural experience and articulate his interventions scientifically. Yet, at the same time he does not alienate the reader by romanticizing his uniqueness."
PsycCritiques of the American Psychological Association, Mar 2008

"Dr. Mehl-Madrona treats each of his patients as a unique individual with a history and a story rather than simply a diagnosis. As well as listening with compassion, he offers a traditional story to help a patient gain insight into their illness and path to wellness. Most of the stories he shares come from North American Native culture as that is Dr. Mehl-Madrona's heritage."
Ann Moore, Synergy Magazine, Vol. 6, Issue 2, Mar/Apr 2009