Johnson City Medical Center | News Article

Monday, August 28, 2017

Story therapy: Niswonger, JCMC patients benefit from master storyteller's visit

Regi Carpenter, storyteller, has some fun interacting with a young patient. She uses storytelling as a form of therapy.JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Storytelling can be good therapy, and patients at Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Johnson City Medical Center recently got a bedside visit from a professional “therapist.”

Regi Carpenter is an author, professor and international workshop presenter and storyteller who is known for her expertise in using storytelling as a therapeutic tool in health care. She recently visited two patients and their families at the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital Affiliate Clinic at Niswonger, three patients and families on the Niswonger pediatrics floor, and one patient on the heart care floor in JCMC.

Click here for a few more very cute photos from Regi Carpenter’s storytelling visit.

Ashlee Graham is one of the child life specialists with Niswonger Children’s Hospital. She helped host Carpenter’s visit.

“All the patients we visited had huge smiles on their faces throughout the whole visit with Regi and afterward, as well,” Graham said. “One of our patients even fixed his hair just for the storyteller, which was so cute! I think Regi’s visit was very beneficial in providing a sense of normalcy to each patient’s hospital stay, letting them just be kids.”

Carpenter tailors her stories to the interests of the patient, so she finds out a little bit about each one before she goes into the room. The JCMC patient was a music teacher, so Regi told a story that used singing. She also shares stories with parents that they can tell to their child to help distract the child from their medical situation, which can calm them down and add a little fun.

Regi particularly encourages parents and caregivers to tell stories to children that make them use their hands. One way is through a technique called “story drawing.” Another is using a tiny music box that plays calming music while she tells the child a story.

Amanda Ward, another of the child life specialists at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, said about Regi’s visit, “Having her tell stories to our patients definitely helped to brighten their day and their overall hospital stay.”

Carpenter has presented keynotes for hospices, hospitals and bereavement organizations on the power of stories to deepen understanding, empathy and connection to oneself and others. She has won numerous grants and awards for her work and has been featured on Sirius Radio, Apple Seed Radio, The Moth and National Public Radio.

Click here to see a great video of Regi’s Tedx Talk entitled “A Hush in the Room,” which is about the power of stories in pediatric palliative care. She also has done a performance piece called “Snap!” that was a winner of the Boston Story Slam and tells of her experience as a 16-year-old institutionalized in a state mental hospital.