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Background: What TNI sessions are and what they aren't

Narrative Sessions and Narrative Workshops facilitated by TNI are not standard support groups. They are not group therapy nor are they venting sessions.

Their scope and concerns are limited to participant stories and the facilitated interpretation of the participant’s human experience. While session and workshop members may find their experience to be therapeutic and/or feel supported by others in the group, our primary goal is to develop our personal and/or professional interior lives through short reflective personal writing on a specific topic. These stories are then shared by the participant reading his/her story verbatim to the group. (Some workshops are large and require reading of narratives in smaller groups).

This innovative facilitated narrative technique has been developed, researched, and published by Dr. Lorraine Dickey during her 30 years as a physician. Some of the important dividends of this process include: diminished feelings of isolation, enhanced feelings of team membership, fuller recognition of what people in similar situations endure, and the alleviation of stress, fatigue, and burnout.

The importance of writing

The act of writing makes us slow down. Writing gives form and shape to experiences that seem formless and shapeless, even chaotic. Writing helps us translate complex experiences into a form more easily grasped, such as an obituary or a eulogy. While some participants are talented and accomplished writers it is important to note that TNI narrative sessions make use of informal writing. Informal writing is not designed to be correct, artistic or accomplished in any special way. Informal writing is designed to capture the writer’s honest reaction to a significant experience. Reading this type of informal writing aloud, word for word, to an interested and informed audience can itself be a powerfully validating and transformational experience.

The simple acts of writing, reading, and listening to these personal stories are known to be especially valuable in decreasing distress, enhancing collegiality, and re-moralizing the participant’s environment (personal and professional). These are some of the personal and professional dividends of participating in TNI Narrative Sessions and Workshops.

What happens in a narrative session

Small Group Narrative Sessions

Part 1: Writing participants are invited at the beginning of each Narrative Session or Narrative Workshop to write for 3-5 minutes on a prompt developed specifically to meet the needs of the audience. Any experience that comes to mind that the participant is willing to share with the group is appropriate for this setting.

Part II: Reading and close listening Narrative Sessions: One at a time, participants are invited to read the written story verbatim to the session group. Those listening are invited to develop their “close listening” skills or listening without expectation to the one currently reading.

Narrative Workshops

Due to the larger size of the audience in our workshops, the participants are divided randomly into smaller groups. Participants are invited to read to one, two or three other participants.

Our Commitment to Research

The Narrative Participant Survey

The Narrative Initiative is committed to advancing the use of personal stories to address complex challenges in the personal and professional lives of healthcare professionals. To accomplish this TNI developed a validated Narrative Participant Survey that all participants are invited to complete. This survey collects demographic data, participant reactions to certain research questions, and participant impressions of their narrative experience.

The Participant Consent for use of de-identified narrative by TNI

At the end of each TNI session participants have the option of keeping their story or voluntarily leaving it with the staff of TNI for their use in education, research, and perhaps even publications. All collected stories are de-identified to the greatest extent possible. We ask all those who leave a narrative with us to please sign the Participant Consent for use of deidentified narrative for education, research and possible publication by TNI.

Professional facilitators

The lead facilitator for TNI Narrative Sessions and Narrative Workshops is Lorraine A. Dickey, MD MBA, the CEO and founder of TNI, as well as a seasoned Advanced Narrative Medicine Facilitator. Guest facilitators may be present. Facilitators-in-training may also be present at any given session. It is important to know that our facilitators are not going to solve problems.These professional facilitators guide participants in framing and interpreting their narratives by addressing themes, images, tone, voice, mood and plot as well as beginnings and endings within the story. Often particular attention is paid to specific use of language, wording, and metaphor. Our goal is to offer an experience where all participants can collectively discover the richness and meaning in each person’s story.

If you are an administrator, healthcare professional or someone who can benefit from our workshops, programs and teachings, please CONTACT US.

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