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The Art of Narrative PsychiatryStories of Strength and Meaning$
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SuEllen Hamkins

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199982042

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199982042.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 07 March 2021

What Is Narrative Psychiatry?

What Is Narrative Psychiatry?

Chapter One What Is Narrative Psychiatry?
Title Pages

SuEllen Hamkins

Oxford University Press

Narrative psychiatry brings the muscle and agility of narrative theory and the spirit of compassion and social justice to the practice of psychiatry. What makes narrative psychiatry different from psychiatry-as-usual? Rather than focusing only on finding the source of the problem, narrative psychiatry also focuses on finding sources of strength and meaning. The result is compassionate, powerful healing. Narrative psychiatry combines narrative and biological understandings of human suffering and well-being. It begins with compassionate connection with patients, understanding that we live our lives in relationships and connect with one another through the stories we tell. It relishes discovering untold but inspiring stories of a person’s resiliency and skill in resisting mental health challenges while dismantling narratives that fuel problems. It examines what the doctor’s kit of psychiatry has to offer in light of the values and preferences of the person seeking consultation, authorizing the patient as the arbiter of what is helpful and what is not. Psychiatry as a field is seeking a more positive and patient-centered approach, which narrative psychiatry exemplifies. In his address at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting on May 6, 2012, President-Elect Dilip Jeste, M.D., said that “ ‘positive psychiatry’—a psychiatry that aims not just to reduce psychiatric symptoms but to help patients grow and flourish—is the future.” Likewise, in 2012 the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration called for a focus on “recovery” that includes collaborative and culturally sensitive care that seeks to honor the patient’s values, self-determination, and preferred relationships and to foster not just the absence of symptoms, but also well-being. Narrative approaches to psychiatry, psychotherapy, and medicine have been burgeoning in the last decade, inspired by the wave of narrative theory that has progressively suffused philosophy, anthropology, literature, and the arts over the last fifty years. Training programs and courses teaching narrative approaches to mental health treatment and to medicine are flourishing.

Keywords:   antipsychotic medications, bipolar disorder, collaborative therapeutic alliance, human action, kindling effect, lithium, positive psychiatry, therapeutic alliance

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