Psychological Impact of story listening
1. Anxiety and Pain
The Befrienders would visit families outside of the intensive care and cardiac care. Those waiting while loved ones were patients were filled with a lot of anxiety during their wait and they wanted information at times other than their visitation times. The nurses discovered the family members being able to share their stories with a story listener helped them to be less anxious. Not only did the family member benefit but the nurses as well.
On other medical and surgical floors nurses noticed some patients who shared stories with a Befriender requested their pain medication less.
Attitude was connected with other impactful dimensions. But anger allowed to be expressed in their stories allowed for a transition in their emotional expression. This was not always in the first visit. One more visits often made the difference. An example was a patient who expressed his anger about what was happening. On the third day with a different Befriender the visit summary he said during the visit, I don't know what I am expressing my anger to you. He made a change and his attitude was different in subsequent visits.
3. Motivation and Productivity.
These two factors were more apparent in the work places where we trained some employees to be story listeners.
A fellow worker appeared to be distressed. When asked if he was okay he said he was okay. When the fellow worker asked a third time, "I think something is bothering you" he then told his story. His ex wife was back in town for their daughters graduation from high school. He still had a lot of anger toward her saying, "she hasn't changed a bit." He talked about the present encounter. When finished he said, "thanks for listening" and went back to work in a different mood, more motivated and productive, not as distracted.
5. Tone of voice
The tone of voice and the way words are said can say a lot in itself. If depressed there is the tendency for the sound to drop at the end of a word or sentence. Anger will show my stactato as the first syllable is accented. Anxiety will have a higher pitch. If a person has had a chance to make a descent in the telling of their story and express different emotions when the turn around comes the tone of voice can change as well. And the orientation metaphors will change as well.
6. Body language
In a short conversation with Sir Roger Bannister who became a neurologist of the autonomic nervous system. A person sharing their story can change body language as the autonomic nervous system becomes involved. More eye contact can be a good indicator. These changes take place without needing to talk about them. They serve as indicators of the change that is taking place
7. Quality of Life
When the Saturn Project (auto factory) was being applied for I was asked to write a one page description of the ways the Befriender program effected the community. That was a surprise. The request came from a person at the Chamber of Commerce whose wife was a nurse at the hospital. He already knew the story listeners were changing the hospital culture to be more story oriented.
Ask yourself what emotional changes did you notice in the significant stories you heard? The voice tone, the eye contact and body language, the quality of life, attitude, motivation, anxiety level, and productivity can, all be effected.
Marlin Whitmer, ret. Hospital Chaplain
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