I love stories. A good story, whether in a movie, a novel, a picture book, or the words of a friend is one of my favourite things. Stories are fun. They teach us about the world and about ourselves. They evoke emotion. They inspire us and empower us. Stories do all these things and more when used in a therapeutic setting, making storytelling a valuable tool in a counsellor’s toolkit.
This week I came across a few articles on the subject and wanted to share with you some of the specific benefits counsellors can provide their clients through the use of therapeutic stories.
The first article is one by Raymond M. Bergner called Therapeutic Storytelling Revisited. The article was printed in the American Journal of Psychotherapy in 2007 and lists a number of positive impacts that storytelling has on therapy clients. You can find the whole article here. The article is not specific to work with children, but I think his conclusions definitely apply to counselling children. I’ve summarized some of the benefits Bergner lists in this infographic “Storytelling: Why it’s so therapeutic”.
Another article on Teaching English cites some of storytelling’s benefits for kids as building a sense of well-being and relaxation, increasing their willingness to communicate thoughts and emotions, encouraging imagination, helping them explore new ideas, giving them insight into life experiences, and helping them to empathize with others.
A third article on Mom Junction looks at the benefits of storytelling from a parent’s perspective, listing benefits and tips for sharing stories with your kids. It lists benefits like building virtues, giving a sense of cultural identity, improved communication, and helping kids face difficult situations.
What benefit does storytelling bring to the work of counselling children? Consider how often counsellors find themselves working to build empathy in kids, trying to help them face the tough situations in their lives, encouraging them to open up and communicate their feelings. These are all aspects of the counsellor’s job description. Few tools can claim to bring so much value to the therapy process, so I hope you have made storytelling a part of your work.
If you are looking for some storybooks to get you started, here are three lists for you to check out:
Picture books about divorce from Fantastic Fun and Learning
Picture books about worrying from No Time for Flashcards
Picture books about anger from Rhythms of Play
I’d also invite you to check out my own therapeutic storybook, Agent Pensby and the Golden Fish: A Tale About Anxiety. It was a lot of fun to write and my clients enjoyed it, even before I had all the fun illustrations made. You can read more about it here or on Amazon.
Bergner, R. (2007). Therapeutic storytelling revisited. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 61, 149-162.