Staff uses storytelling to promote healing

Patients who have encountered a life-altering, devastating illness or injury often don’t believe their difficult stories are worth telling.

Faced with a new reality, these patients must work to develop a new, positive story — a concept known as disability identity.

In an effort to help people complete their recovery, the UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital team started a project called Know Your Story, Know Yourself: Developing Disability Identity via Personal Storytelling. It is based on the concept that each person has a story to tell, and research has shown that developing your personal story and sharing it with others is a powerful way to better understand your life.

The project is led by Lindsey Dhans, M.O.T., OTR/L, UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital brain injury occupational therapist, in conjunction with Self Narrate — the leading local organization for story development — and received a grant from the UF Medical Guild.

“We know that wellness comes from the recovery of minds as well as bodies,” said Dhans. “Knowing and owning your story can help with that.”

Volunteers are currently being trained to use a template to encourage patients to examine their life stories and create written, audio or video transcripts of the stories upon request of participants.

Once completed, UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital patient stories will be archived and shared through the Self Narrate website ( with the goal of promoting awareness and offering hope for others as they develop their own stories.

“When a patient tells their story, they help heal themselves,” said Dhans. “When they share it with others, the healing spreads.”