Positive Assessment: Storytelling as a Method to ‘Open the Door’
Since medical professionals are often characterized as left-brained, clinical thinkers, you may be surprised to learn there is a strong creative element to our work. A doctor’s abilities to collaborate, to problem-solve, to clearly articulate solutions, and to form empathetic emotional bonds with each of our patients and partners are all central to our professional development and, ultimately, to the success and survival of those we serve.
At its heart, then, medicine is both a scientific enterprise and a storytelling exercise — and a growing field known as narrative medicine has lately been shining a valuable spotlight on how this blend of right- and left-brained care can empower patient health in accessible and energizing ways. At Belong Health, we recognize narrative medicine isn’t just a boon to patients and providers — it helps address systemic challenges across the fields and communities in which we work.
In an earlier blog post, we introduced readers to Positive Assessment, a new style of client engagement that has unlocked wonderful storytelling opportunities across the medical profession. Its holistic approach to care, built around the PERMA model of well-being that was developed by University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Martin Seligman, reframes the process of medical treatment to more fully encompass five of the creative components of the human experience.
Those five components are outlined in the acronym PERMA, itself: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. Together, their impact on the medical practice continues to be immeasurable. Just ask clinical social worker Tracy Posniak.
Over the past 13 years at Four Winds Hospital in Westchester County, NY, Tracy has held a number of significant patient-facing roles. Early on, Tracy discovered that, although she quickly became well-versed in working with teams and with very challenging patients, a hybridization of clinical and creative tools would likely be essential for her own personal and professional health.
Positive Assessment offered just the right resource for Tracy. She immediately found herself deeply connected to the idea of meaning, one of Positive Assessment’s five components, which is explicitly defined as what matters to us and provides the springboard for our purpose in life. As someone who offers so much of her own heart, talent, and time in an effort to help others, Tracy knew she lived a life rich with meaning and was eager to help others find their meaning and purpose, too.
It didn’t take long for Tracy to put this passion into practice. Soon, she met “Susan,” an elderly resident of a supportive living program, who had struggled with a deep history of mental health challenges. Upon their first interaction, and drawing from the Positive Assessment approach, Tracy implored Susan not to discuss only her challenges but rather to reveal “the whole Susan.” Given Tracy’s own personal interest in meaning, Susan was routinely encouraged, in their sessions together, to share what was personally meaningful to her.