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When You Hear Your Own Story: The Examined Life Conference 2018, Day 2

Dr. David Thoele introduced me to The Examined Life, and suggested that I submit a proposal for last year’s conference. Today, he and fellow staff from the Advocate system presented their work on how to help patients process their experiences and relieve stress.

His project started by simply encouraging patients to write a journal. When most patients didn’t respond to the open-ended “Write something!”, he looked for other ways to encourage reflection. Eventually, David began doing a 3-minute exercise which involves three simple writing prompts. The 3-Minute Mental Makeover (3MMM) was born.

At last year’s Examined Life, David presented a study demonstrating how this brief, shared experience lowered stress levels and facilitated provider-patient communication. This year, David presented his work alongside Dr. Amy Stewart, Douglass Moss, and Ted Kouzov.

Dr. Stewart had been working on how to get trauma patients and families to journal, and when she heard David speak about 3MMM, they decided to join forces. The team showed off a fun and impressive loose-leaf prototype adaptable to children and adults, which includes 3MMM as a staple. The entire team described how the journal gives providers a tool to take a moment and be present with patients, and to let them know that their concerns are being heard and addressed.

Another highlight of day 2 was a story workshop lead by Rebecca Grossman-Kahn. Most of the storytelling done at Examined Life is written, and I was expecting a workshop emphasizing some literary aspects.

Instead, we were given a few minutes to sketch some ideas, and then told to relay our story to a partner, orally. After that, our partner wrote down the story and then told it back to us. The room was surprised at how polished the stories actually were. Several participants also expressed surprise that their re-teller noticed new dimensions to the story they hadn’t considered. There were even some subtle contradictions told back to us. Critiques are fairly easy to come by, but having our own story told back to us in the moment surprised everyone.

Last night, I heard some aspects of my own socioeconomic story told back to me. Today, I literally heard my own words repeated to me, and got to keep hearing about a patient-centered project I’ve been keeping track of for several years.