We often tell stories to one another to keep history alive or to entertain ourselves, but recent research suggests that telling stories can help our loved ones recover from stroke.

This is referred to in science as narrative therapy.

Narrative therapy has your loved one recall her stroke and share the experience by telling a story. The story might include when the stroke happened, who was there at the time, the treatments she received and what sort of rehabilitation she is doing.

In one study, stroke survivors shared narratives about their recent stroke with study researchers. They talked about whatever they wanted to share about their stroke. From 29 stroke survivor stories, some common themes emerged. They usually talked about:

  • Medical information
  • Personal relationship changes
  • Cognitive function
  • Emotional function
  • How to cope
  • Social support networks

With this information, we can better understand the needs of our loved ones and work to customize their rehabilitation.

Another study had a therapist help the stroke survivors to come up with their narrative. The survivors were asked to use a train metaphor in their story. Survivors spoke about how they got to the train station, how they experienced the stroke in their lives. Then they talked about how the train is built and how stroke was part of their daily lives. The metaphor helped the patients to reconstruct their identity and to share their hopes and dreams.

This type of therapy can be used with your loved one on your own. Ask them to talk about their stroke experience unaided, or supply them with a metaphor to talk around that they might relate to. By doing so, you can help your loved one to deal with their feelings about their stroke, and possibly improve their cognitive function as well.