The power of a story

POWER OF STORIES: Susan Perrow and Lennox Head GP Dr Hilton Koppe, who will present workshops on storytelling at a conference in the US.
POWER OF STORIES: Susan Perrow and Lennox Head GP Dr Hilton Koppe, who will present workshops on storytelling at a conference in the US.

THERE is power in telling a story.

Lennox Head author Susan Perrow and Lennox GP Dr Hilton Koppe will be talking about that power at a conference for medical professionals in the US in April.

Hosted by The University of Iowa and the Carver College of Medicine, the Examined Life Conference aims to focus on the links between the science of medicine and the art of writing.

Susan, an educator, has been using stories in her work and personal life for about 30 years, and began presenting workshops on therapeutic story- telling - something she has focused more on in the past 10 years. She has published the books Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour and Therapeutic Storytelling.

She met Dr Koppe when he attended one of her workshops 20 years ago and remembered a line he had said about his experience: That his mind was like a dried prune, but transformed into a juicy plum after the workshop.

Dr Koppe has since used storytelling in his doctor's surgery as a way of, for example, helping put young children at ease, and also explaining his diagnosis to patients - thereby improving the doctor-patient relationship.

He also teaches doctors to use stories - something which is not widespread in Australia, but has gained momentum in the US.

Susan and Dr Koppe met again recently at the Byron Bay Writers Festival.

Susan said stories, through metaphor, took people away from the rational brain.

"They speak more to the feelings," she said.

She has used storytelling in helping people through difficult situations, modifying behaviours and dealing with depression, among other things.

Dr Koppe started going to The Examined Life Conference three years ago, and put Susan in touch with the organisers.

They both will present workshops at this year's conference and together will present a session titled From Dried Prunes to Juicy Plums - How Stories Know the Way.

Dr Koppe has been invited to give the closing keynote address.

"That's a big deal for me, a country GP from a little village."

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