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The Healing Power of Stories: Narrative Theory and Narrative Practice, Harvard University

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posted on 2022-07-06, 16:21 authored by Post Discipline AdminPost Discipline Admin
Annie Brewster, MD'99 and Jonathan Adler, PhD will co-teach this elective, which will offer students a solid foundation in the social science research on the health benefits of narrative through readings and didactic sessions, as well as experience working directly with patients and their loved ones, under supervision, to apply this knowledge. It is relevant for students pursuing any specialty. The didactic component of the elective includes assigned readings drawn from the interdisciplinary literature on narrative and health, with an emphasis on the empirical social science literature, writing exercises, and a once-weekly two-hour seminar. The applied work will occur in collaboration with Health Story Collaborative (HSC), a nonprofit organization founded by Dr. Brewster with the goal of using storytelling for therapeutic purposes. Elective participants will work within two of HSC's existing programs: The Healing Story Sessions program and the SharingClinic program. Healing Story Sessions (HSS) are live storytelling events. Elective participants will spend time preparing for and ultimately participating in a Patient-Provider Story Session (there is also a Patient-Patient version). Dr. Brewster and Dr. Adler will oversee this process, from story writing to story sharing. On a designated evening, patient-provider pairs will come together to share their stories in front of invited guests, including other medical students, facilitated by Dr. Brewster and Dr. Adler. SharingClinic is an evolving collaboration between HSC and MGH which involves hospital-based listening kiosks where patients, their loved ones, health care providers can access pre-recorded audio stories focused on the emotional experience of facing health challenges. Students will work for two hours each week at MGH in designated clinics and inpatient units to collect audio stories for SharingClinic. Dr. Brewster will supervise this process. This will provide students with valuable direct experience with patient narrative and an opportunity to contribute to an on-going project. This course is elective, non-credit-bearing. This information has been collected for the Post-Discipline Online Syllabus Database. The database explores the use of literature by schools of professional education in North America. It forms part of a larger project titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities, led by Dr Merve Emre with the assistance of Dr Hayley G. Toth. You can find more information about the project at Data was collected and accurate in 2021/22.


Subject Area


Geographic Region

New England

University or College

Harvard University

Funding Status


Endowment (according to NACUBO's U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change* in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20) ($1,000)


Annual Tuition and Mandatory Fees 2021-2022 ($) (Resident; Non-resident, where applicable)


Course Title

The Healing Power of Stories: Narrative Theory and Narrative Practice

Terminal Degree of Instructor(s)


Position of Instructor(s)

Assistant Professor, Associate Professor of Medicine

Academic Year(s) Active

2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22

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