Therapeutic Life Story Work
Therapeutic Life story can help children to identify and understand the
ghosts of the past so children are no longer haunted by them
– Richard Rose (2012)
Therapeutic Life story work is an innovative and exciting way for children, parents, carers, and their social workers, to look at the child's history through a therapeutic lens. Life story work helps to establish open and honest conversations, between young people, their adoptive or foster parent’s social workers and care givers. The life story work, gives the individual a voice & a safe space to express their emotions when making sense of past experiences and the relation it has to their current thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
It can also encourage the child/young person and future carers to continue adding information. This includes researching the child and young person’s history involving significant people to have input in the life story book, thereby giving the child and young person a more balanced picture of their lives especially children in foster care or adopted children.
At this stage Life story work focuses on what is happening to the child now and how they can move forward with support focusing direct work on building children’s sense of safety, emotional literacy, resilience and self-esteem and identity.
When Children May Not Be Ready
There may be occasions when the child or young person will not feel comfortable to engage in this work and it is crucial to accept this and go at the child’s pace. If professionals involved believe that a child requires therapy and that undertaking Life Story Work would not be helpful at this stage then this must be taken in to consideration; however this should not prevent the on-going collation of materials that will be used at a later date.
At this stage Life story work focuses on what is happening to the child now and how they can move forward with support focusing direct work on building children’s sense of safety, emotional literacy, resilience, self-esteem and identity.
The following definitions attempt to differentiate between the terms for greater clarity:
‘Life story work’
Means telling the story of a child’s life history to enable the child to understand their past. In the majority of cases this will involve direct work with the child, and they can be involved in an age-appropriate way. Life story work is commonly done for children placed for adoption to give a factual narrative about their lives before embarking on life with a new family (Ryan & Walker, 2007). However, it can also be a therapeutic tool that deals with the inner world of the child who may never find a new permanent family and how that relates to the child’s perception of his/her reality. It can be an essential part of the recovery process for all traumatized children (Rose and Philpot, 2005).
‘Life story book’
Is the recording of information about the child’s past in an accessible way for the child. It will include both photos and narrative. For the majority of children this will be the tangible outcome of life story work. For those children who cannot be engaged in direct work (mainly the under 2) the book will be prepared on their behalf for the future.
* If you are interested in either pieces of work (Life story work or Life story book), please feel free to contact us.