M. Gibney

Drexel University (UNITED STATES)
Over the past few decades, psychology and gerontology have been among the professions placing increasing emphasis on narratives and their use in training and professional service. As narrative studies in those two professions and within medicine, nursing, and social work have become more numerous, we have seen a rich array of articles, textbooks, and essay collections offering varied glimpses of the experiences of aged persons and those who serve them. A sometimes-contradictory literature examining the effects of stressors, styles of coping, generativity, agency and communion, and sources of fear and hope, has allowed us to discern common themes as well as to recognize disparate and sometimes highly individual responses to later life events and developmental challenges.

Although the literature on the value of narrative in clinical and social service settings has grown, to date there are few empirical data on the effectiveness of mental health and aging training for health and social service professionals using key narrative themes. This presentation will discuss a small pilot study examining trainees’ responses to the use of fictional case vignettes, including the incorporation of narrative analysis. I will address some of the origins of narrative theory; examine the work of some of its leading practitioners in general and those writing about aging in particular; and consider how narratives can be used in the training context that framed the current small pilot study. Data on pretest and posttest survey results related to training effectiveness will be discussed. The presentation will offer preliminary evidence-based suggestions for the application of narrative understanding in training those in care settings for vulnerable selected populations.