Narrative psychiatry is the North Star that guides me in my work. Whether I am conducting fifteen-minute appointments at a community mental health center, weekly psychotherapy in my private practice, or a college student’s first psychiatric consultation, the principles and practices of narrative psychiatry offer me direction and support. In every psychiatric context in which I practice, I seek to enhance my patients’ awareness of their strengths and values and assist them in taking steps toward their vision of well-being in the context of a collaborative and compassionate therapeutic relationship. It’s time to bring greater humanity back into the day-to-day practice of psychiatry. Just as primary care practitioners are seeking to attend more fully to their patients’ stories and lives, so, too, can we in psychiatry, especially in contexts such as med checks and hospital rounds. Narrative psychiatry offers the person-centered, recovery-oriented care and “positive psychiatry” that the leaders in our field are calling for. What narrative psychiatry needs to move forward is to train more narrative practitioners and to conduct more research to establish a stronger empirical foundation. Case-based, qualitative evidence of the efficacy of narrative approaches to mental health treatment is rich, such as that presented in this book and in two decades of articles and books published by White, Epston, Madsen, Freedman, Combs, Russell, Gaddis, Kronbichter, Maisel, Ncube, Speedy, and many others. Quantitative studies that have been completed to date, such as Lynette Vromans and Robert Schweitzer’s study of narrative treatment of major depression, and Mim Weber, Kierrynn Davis, and Lisa McPhie’s study of narrative treatment of eating disorders, while supporting efficacy, are limited by small sample sizes. Exciting research studies are currently underway. John Stillman has developed a narrative trauma treatment manual expressly for the purpose of defining core narrative therapy principles and practices so that their efficacy can be researched. He and Christopher Erbe have completed a pilot study demonstrating the reliability of scales used by observers rating whether therapy sessions were consistent with the practices described by the manual; that is, whether the treatment was actually narrative.
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