Therapeutic Life Story Work
"In essence, life story therapy is not just about the who, what, where , when and why of events - it is also about the consequences of those events, and how they drive the child, and present issues and difficulties." (Rose 2012, p.26)
About Therapeutic Life Story Work
Therapeutic Life Story Work as developed by Richard Rose (2012) supports children who are living in foster, kinship, residential or permanent care or who have been adopted.
Using engaging methods involving play, art and narrative, preferably in the child's home or placement, Therapeutic Life Story Work aims to assist with emotional literacy, communication strategies and insight into learned coping mechanisms. I work closely with the child or young person and their therapeutic carer, providing opportunities to reflect on the past and to consider its relationship with the present in order to empower the child or young person to make informed choices about what they want for their future.
By working together to explore the young person's views of their world while considering their personal and family history, the therapeutic carer may be better positioned to understand and respond to behaviours and their underlying emotions, strengthening the placement and assisting with attachment and attunement.
Stages of Therapeutic Life Story Work
Therapeutic Life Story Work is made up of three stages.
During the first stage, I spend a few weeks obtaining information about the child's personal and family history. This may include meeting with professionals, family members and previous carers as well as a review of files and important documents. The goal of this stage is to ensure that I have an understanding of the child's unique journey, how this may be impacting the child's present and what gaps might exist in the child's understanding of who they are and why they live where they live.
The second stage typically involves 12-18 sessions, working with the child and their therapeutic carer. Initially the focus is on building rapport, introducing the tools (such as games and wallpaper) and language used throughout the process and working together to form an agreement about how needs and emotions can be communicated safely and appropriately. Using a variety of activities and materials the child is provided the opportunity to think about who they are and what is important to them. Their family will also be introduced onto the wall paper and events, themes, emotions, strengths, behaviours and questions are explored in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner. Throughout this stage the wider care team is engaged and consulted to ensure the child is able to be supported holistically and consistently in their home, school and community environments.
Once this exploration reaches the present day for the child, a closing celebration will occur where the child's work is acknowledged and captured digitally to be collated into a first-person narrated life story book. This is drafted over a period of several weeks. The therapeutic carer supports the child to approve or edit each page so that the child's voice is truly captured and they are able to move forward with a sense of ownership of their story.
Rose, R. (2012) Life Story Therapy with Traumatized Children : A Model for Practice. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.