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Narrative Medicine: The Use of History and Story in the Healing Process Paperback – June 11, 2007

4.8 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Challenging the voice of conventional health care, Mehl-Medrona (Coyote Medicine) demonstrates the limits of modern medicine by looking to the perspectives and stories that have kept indigenous cultures (including his own Cherokee ancestors) healthy for centuries. A professor of family medicine and psychiatry, Mehl-Madrona avoids a "problem-based" vantage point, addressing root causes where conventional medicine addresses symptoms, using the body's natural tendency toward harmony and balance where others use drugs. Though it's not a new thesis, Mehl-Madrona illustrates it cleverly and accessibly ("Classical medicine stops at the frame of the body, ignoring the social world and... its multiple frames"). Mehl-Medrona invites readers into powerful tribal talking circles, as well as the sweatlodge, where patients conceptualize illness as an entity to battle. Case studies from North American and Hawaii natives demonstrate how stories themselves can spur healing: one troubled Hawaii youth was only able to identify his self-destructive behavior, and his need for help, after hearing a folk story about a boy with a man-eating shark mouth on his back. Though clearly pushing an agenda, Mehl-Madrona's arguments are compelling and level-headed, but occasionally lose momentum to excess exposition. This look at story and community's role in individual health convincingly advocates for a larger, more inclusive, more complete health care system.
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Review

"What makes this Narrative Medicine important and exciting, at least to me, is that we have a board certified medical doctor challenging the more tradition modalities of Western medicine; not by ridiculing them, or even dismissing them, but rather offering narrative medicine as both a complement and a way to systemically treat the whole person. . . . shows us the importance of our own story in our own healing process. Throughout the book there are case histories which we can draw upon to both understand how the process works and to make personal application." (Frank A. Mills, Co/Create Ideas Matter, March 2010)

"Lewis Mehl-Madrona is an extraordinarily gifted physician and healer. I saw him transform the lives of profoundly affected patients. Mostly, he was sitting next to them, listening carefully and telling them stories. I was amazed." (David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh, aut)

“Some people say that we are made of molecules and cells, but Lewis Mehl-Madrona insists that we are made of stories. Stories involve a whole person in a historical context and in a whole environment. This more expansive view of ourselves is more true-to-life and real. Dr. Mehl-Madrona teaches us to learn our own story and to use it to heal ourselves and to appreciate our own soul’s path.” (Dana Ullman, MPH, author of The Homeopathic Revolution and coauthor of Everybody’s Guide to Ho)

“Dr. Mehl-Madrona’s work with Narrative Medicine is both powerful and exciting. He meets each patient as a unique individual instead of a diagnosis. He provides story after story of successes that are not within the normal spectrum of modern medicine, and breaks down narrative medicine into components so we may catch a glimpse of how it achieves its success. He brings the reader back to listening and compassion, the two human aspects of medicine that are crucial to the doctor-patient relationship. His view of medicine and healing expands how one looks at the illness, health, and community.” (Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D., MPH, CCFP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Arizona)

“It is clear from Lewis Mehl-Madrona’s work that healing is far too complex a process to entrust to the western medical profession. And in opening the door to indigenous voices from outside these professional doors, the present volume is both illuminating and invaluable. My hope is that this book will serve as a beacon and an inspiration for the broadest collaboration in defining and enriching our orientations to health, illness, and cure.” (Kenneth J. Gergen, Mustin Professor of Psychology, Swarthmore College)

“Stanford Medical School trained Mehl-Madrona invokes the philosophy of his Cherokee and Lakota ancestors to remind us that the path to redemption for today’s health care world is to honor the patient’s life story with all of its elements of culture, community, family, health beliefs, spirituality, and individuality. Mehl-Madrona’s narrative contribution is possibly the most inclusive philosophy ever proposed in medicine. “After reading Narrative Medicine, when we come face-to-face with that terrible question, ‘Doc, how long have I got to live?’ we will know that the answer cannot be found in a statistic or the natural history of a disease, but depends upon your unique story--the one told up until this point and especially the one authored from this point onward.” (Farrell Silverberg, Ph.D., author of Make the Leap: A Practical Guide to Breaking the Patterns That)

“Our stories bring us comfort and help us become acquainted with our unanticipated dreams and fears. Narrative Medicine helps us connect to this personal taproot enhancing our understanding of how we can find our way back to wellness in crisis.” (Roberta Lee, Continuum Center for Health and Healing, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York)

"Addressing shamanism, quantum physics, critical theory, and more, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers, including healing practitioners . . ." (Blanche Angelo, Library Journal Xpress Reviews, July 2007)

"The author writes very well, weaving examples throughout, as well as stories from a variety of cultures, showing how he uses stories in his practice with actual patients." (D. Tigermoon, The Pagan Review, Nov 2007)

"Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona presents us with a sincere and well-researched case for a new approach to mental and physical health. . . . as well as cutting-edge sociological developments in transformational studies." (David Paulsen, New Age Retailer, Jan 2008)

"It is quite refreshing to read the perspective of a health-care practitioner who can draw on his own cultural experience and articulate his interventions scientifically. Yet, at the same time he does not alienate the reader by romanticizing his uniqueness." (PsycCritiques of the American Psychological Association, Mar 2008)

"Dr. Mehl-Madrona treats each of his patients as a unique individual with a history and a story rather than simply a diagnosis. As well as listening with compassion, he offers a traditional story to help a patient gain insight into their illness and path to wellness. Most of the stories he shares come from North American Native culture as that is Dr. Mehl-Madrona's heritage." (Ann Moore, Synergy Magazine, Vol. 6, Issue 2, Mar/Apr 2009)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bear & Company; 1 edition (June 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591430658
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591430650
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nancy L. Howe on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
Narrative Medicine is a radical critique of conventional medicine in which Mehl-Madrona, M.D., Ph.D. challenges the knowledge system that physicians, especially psychiatrists, use to diagnose illness and direct treatment. Mehl-Madrona's writing style is straight-forward and concrete, enlivened with his skillful use of patient stories and historical examples drawn from his years in practice and as a professor of medicine, currently at University of Saskatchewan and before that, University of Arizona. He traces the philosophical roots of western medicine's fundamental axioms that disease can be understood with a mechanistic, biological model alone, and that valid medical solutions must generalize to a large population. Mehl-Madrona uses clinical experiences, recent research in physics, and advances in post-modern philosophy to underscore how these medical truths are, in themselves, a story. "Narrative therapy," as described by more than 200 Amazon authors, is promoted as an effective tool to be added to the physician's standard repertoire. Narrative medicine, by contrast, is not a tool; it is a way of seeing. In Mehl-Madrona's experience, storytelling is transformative, capable of promoting healing as a consequence of the interplay between teller and listeners.

As a cancer researcher, I found that Narrative Medicine held the key to understanding interviews I conducted with ovarian cancer survivors. I had asked these women to tell me how they learned of their diagnosis. What they told me were stories of how their illness had changed their self-understanding. For most, their interactions with the medical community had been frustrating and fragmented. They described being shuttled back and forth among a variety of experts (e.g.
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The overall tone of this book is plodding and academic, compared to Mehl-Madrona's "Coyote Medicine". Either he changed editors or didn't use one. Not much new material. But this may appeal more to academic types. I much preferred the dynamic personal narrative of the earlier book.
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This book goes way beyond giving us a new understanding of medicine and the power of story in healing. It provides us with incredible insight into this too often untapped (or unconsciously tapped) power to create stories out of what we live, what we perceive, to give meaning to our lives.
There are major parallels to draw between Dr Mehl-Madrona's books and Viktor Frankl's work, and his "logotherapy". Frankl helped his patients find meaning (logos) in their lives, and so does Lewis Mehl-MAdrona, but by using a different approach.
As compared to previous books, "Narrative Medicine" allows readers to have a much deeper understanding of the workings of this medicine. It gets to the very principles of the power of stories.
It is not always an easy book, but it is undoubtedly a major one, a reference book, to be read, re-read and considered : there is much to me learned from it !
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I am so grateful to have serendipitously stumbled upon Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona's work. Narrative Medicine is filled with deep wisdom and insight into the process of healing. He brings heart and soul to a profession which has become largely cold and clinical. Witnessing my Mother's health decline and then finally her diagnosis and cancer treatment truly opened my eyes to the heartlessness of our Western system. Reading Narrative Medicine made me feel less alone in my belief that health and wholeness is more rich and complex than diagnosing and medicating. I have been blessed with personally meeting and witnessing Dr. Mehl-Madrona at work. As a result, my view of illness and disease will never be the same. I highly recommend this book!
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In this book, Dr. Mehl-Madrona provides a thoughtful critique of modern medicine. While he acknowledges many of the positive things that modern medicine has done for society (like making it possible to attribute disease to more than just people's religious and moral failings), he also proves how the discipline misses many aspects of health and wellness.

In the first few chapters of the book, Dr. Mehl-Madrona references a wide range of topics, from traditional stories to recent research on quantum physics. These chapters help to provide a foundation for understanding how narrative medicine can be conceived and employed in practice. Dr. Mehl-Madrona has a writing style that is very relaxed and inviting to the reader. Through his writing, he creates a dialectic in the truest sense: instead of trying to discredit all of modern medicine, or attempting to integrate narrative medicine into previously established theories of modern medicine, Dr. Mehl-Madrona provides a vital approach to medicine and health.

This book was used as part of a senior Psychology class. However, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning about the field of medicine, about how doctors today treat physical and mental illnesses, and how narrative medicine can be used to help people.
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I didn't read the whole book--the second half seemed to be going into some alternate healing therapies that were beyond the scope of what I was reading the book for. But I really love how he connected with his clients based on their particular social contexts. That was inspiring.
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