The Healing Power of Storytelling: Using Personal Narrative to Navigate Illness, Trauma, and Loss by Annie Brewster, MD

The Healing Power of Storytelling

Book Cover: The Healing Power of Storytelling
Publisher: 2023

Reframe your story—and reclaim your life—through writing and storytelling in this “invaluable guide for patients, families, medical professionals, and all of us ordinary mortals grappling with life” (Danielle Ofri, MD, PHD, author of What Doctors Feel).

A Harvard-trained doctor draws on the tenants of narrative therapy and her own multiple sclerosis diagnosis to offer chronic illness patients a way through anxiety, confusion, and trauma.


When Harvard-trained physician Dr. Annie Brewster was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2001, she realized firsthand that the medical system to which she’d devoted her entire career was failing patients. The experience was dehumanizing. Her doctors weren’t listening. And the confusion, fear, and shame she felt around her diagnosis was preventing her from truly healing, claiming her story, and living her fullest, richest life.

Here, Dr. Brewster and journalist Rachel Zimmerman each share their own personal stories, acting as expert guides as you move forward on your healing journey. With exercises, reflections, writing prompts, and stories from other real patients, Dr. Brewster and Zimmerman show how you can:

• Process the difficult emotions that come with life-changing diagnosis
• Move beyond being the hero of your own story to become the author of your own story
• Craft your narrative and share it in whatever medium speaks to you
• Integrate a traumatic health event into a new and evolving identity
• Use applied storytelling techniques to strengthen connections with loved ones and care providers
• Cultivate resilience to move forward amid uncertainty and fear

The fact is, doctors can give you a life-changing diagnosis, but they’re not equipped to help you deal with the inner fallout: the confusion, anxiety, trauma, and dread that comes after “I have some bad news.” Dr. Brewster shows how writing your own unique healing story can help you process what comes next—to come to terms, create new ways to thrive, and even reclaim your personal power amid fear, change, and uncertainty.