Crafting an Intervention
Developing a Narrative Medicine Intervention
When creating a narrative medicine intervention, it can be challenging to know where to get started. It can be helpful to outline the following pieces for your intervention:
Intended Audience and Setting
Time Allotted (per section and total time)
Writing Prompt warm up
Third Object (see below)
Writing Prompt (see below)
Shared Writing and Reflections
When crafting your intervention, consider the importance of inclusivity, remembering to account for different perspectives, approaches, abilities (writing or otherwise), and preferred languages.
Prompts for Narrative Medicine Interventions
Below are a list of some common questions or prompts to use when framing your narrative medicine intervention. When writing a prompt, it can be helpful to use time, subject and a concrete image or object (see Third Object below) to help the writer identify with the prompt. You can use a metaphor from the text or have two opposing concepts side-by-side. It helps to be brief, and consider offering more than one prompt (two or even three) for your participants to engage with the prompt in a way that is most meaningful and comfortable to them. It can be helpful to offer at least one prompt without "I" to allow the person to write in the third person. Also consider offering for participants to "just write" if none of the prompts speak to them.
When choosing your writing prompt, be mindful to pair it with your participants and learning objectives. Also remember to hold space for multiple perspectives, and avoid labeling emotions beyond what expressly appears in the text. Remember to offer a 1 and/or 5 minute warning before the writing closes, and consider asking "What else is also true?"
You can't always tell, but...
Do you know what this is?...
If you were a mode of transportation, what would it be?
Write about the story of your name.
I'll never forget...
My roots grew in two places...
When I opened my eyes...
I had no idea at the time...
And just like that...
I remember this detail...
What surprised me...
Write about loss or gain.
Write about one of your scars.
Write about something out of reach.
Write about a patient whose suffering has moved you.
Potential Prompts Grounded in a Third Object:
What words or phrases bound toward you? Why?
How does it feel? Who do you hear? What do you see?
What is left out? What is confusing? What is surprising?
When does it happen? Where is it set? How does the form make meaning?
Choose an image or a word from the text and use it as a writing prompt.
Imitate the form of this piece of writing.
Sharing Responses to Writing
When inviting participants to share and respond to each other's writing, offer for participants to share some, part or all of what they wrote. Remember to let the writing stand on its own by reading without a preamble or apology. Remind participants that sharing is a choice, and value the importance of listening to one another.
It can be helpful to respond to the writing, not the writer. Listen for moments written in the shadow of the text, where the participant's writing echoes the original third object. Hold space for silence to offer opportunity for participants to share.
Closing the Session
Be respectful of people's time by beginning and ending promptly. When planning your intervention, it can be helpful to scaffold the timestamps for facilitators to more easily track time during the session. Consider ending the session with an open-ended question, asking individuals to share 1-3 words that describe how they feel, or open the floor to questions and feedback.
Third Objects for Narrative Medicine Interventions
Third objects are visual method tools such as photos, poems, spoken word, music, videos or films that can be used to inspire conversation, reflection and writing in narrative medicine workshops. The following are links to external pages of pieces available online for access. Please refer to the artist or source for permission to use these prompts in your narrative space. This is for informational purposes only.
Poetry and Writings
A girl named Jack, By Jacqueline Woodson
Things my daughter lost in hospitals, By Toni Wilkes
Stay, By Kim Addonizio
Baby Girl, By Mollie Marr
A map to the next world, By Joy Harjo
Forgetfulness, By Billy Collins
Bird-Understander, By Craig Arnold
The essential skills for being human, By David Brooks
The ship pounding, By Donald Hall
The things they carried, By Tim O'Brien
Blood, By Zdravka Evtimova
The short arm of chromosome 4, By Frank Huyler
The death of Fred Clifton, By Lucille Clifton
Videos, Audios and Spoken Word
AI and what it means to be more human, By Reid Hoffman
The danger of a single story, By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Race after technology: Abolitionist tools for the new Jim Code, By Ruha Benjamin
Tryptich, By Diana Khoi Nguyen, Read by Diana Khoi Nguyen
I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store, By Eve L. Ewing, Read by Johnny Sun