This blog is an exploration of narrative approaches to healthcare, social work, teaching and social science inquiry. My name is Karen Gold and I am a social worker, educator, and narrative medicine facilitator.
I have been working in healthcare as a clinical social worker and educator for over twenty years and I my interest in narrative approaches to clinical practice and therapy dates back to the late 1990s when I began studying narrative therapy. Then in 2008 I read Rita Charon’s Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness which inspired me to focus my work in the area of ‘narrative medicine’. Her intertwining of literature, narrative theory and medicine felt like a close philosophical cousin to my earlier interests in narrative practice approaches.
A couple of years later I entered a PhD program which allowed me to focus my work on relational practices and healthcare narrative. I spent my time immersed in reading about auto-ethnography, arts-based social science, social constructionist inquiry, poetry and short stories by healthcare practitioners – and thinking about the relationship between narrative and relational moments in everyday practice.
While working on my dissertation, I did workshops at the Taos Institute as well as training at Columbia University’s Program in Narrative Medicine. These were highlights of my process, as I had the opportunity to immerse myself in relational and constructionist inquiry, the hands-on methods of narrative medicine pedagogy (close reading and reflective writing) as well as meet folks from different disciplines and areas of practice brought together by our interest in collaborative practices and/or narrative medicine.
My focus in all of this has been to promote better communication, empathy and compassionate care. I’m interested in how narrative helps us understand illness from the perspective of patients and families, as well as how narrative gives us a unique window into the professional identity and everyday experience of clinicians. I’m especially interested in how stories can help us recover important moments and conversations (what narrative therapist Michael White might have called the ‘absent but implicit’).
I currently integrate narrative approaches in my work as an educator (using reading, reflective writing and reader’s theatre to promote understanding of ethics and relationships in healthcare practice) and facilitate a hospital-based writing group to provide a space to reflect on practice and share our writing with colleagues. I am also a volunteer facilitator for the Toronto Writer’s Collective which is based on the Amherst Writing method and aims to bring creative writing opportunities to often marginalized voices throughout our city.