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Phenomenology of Identity: Mobilizing Narrative Medicine Towards the Care of Eating Disorders

  • April 24, 2023

Narrative Medicine is a discipline of the health humanities rooted in close-reading and reflective writing, the combination of which conditions a radical way of listening and knowing that has the capacity to transform healthcare delivery.

As Narrative Medicine scholars and psychiatrists-to-be in various stages of training (first year psychiatry resident and third year medical student), we recognize not only the enormous overlap between the two disciplines, but the unique way in which Narrative Medicine is positioned to serve the practice of Psychiatry – work that sits with the hard, the grey, the messy. Of the pathologies that we treat, eating disorders are among the most humbling.

Our session will be divided into two parts. In the first part of the session, we will define the field of Narrative Medicine and practice its pedagogy together: the narrative medicine workshop. We will experience the three movements of Attention, Representation, and Affiliation through close reading of a work of art, and then, by invitation of a prompt, writing “in the shadow of the text.”

During the second part of session, we will share our recent qualitative research project in which we designed and facilitated two parallel series of Narrative Medicine workshops: one for patients living with eating disorders at a residential treatment facility, and another for their providers. The curriculum we developed is rooted in phenomenology - the study of the lived experience as it begins from and within the body. We will discuss our findings and, using the demonstrative workshop as an anchor point, elucidate the ways in which expanding our capacity to imagine the situation of others can augment the way we think about treatment-refractory psychiatric illnesses.

Medical leadership for mind, brain and body.

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