Therapeutic Support » Therapeutic Life Story Work
Therapeutic life story work is about helping a child or young person create a personal or family history by gathering and talking about information (such as photos and letters) about their life now or before they came into care, to help them develop a sense of identity.
Life story work is a NICE requirement (QS31 Quality statement 4) for looked-after children and young people. It is also integral to National minimum standards adoption/children's homes/fostering services 2011 standard 2
Therapeutic Life Story Work, a defined approach developed by Richard Rose, is designed to introduce the past as markers for the present. Once these are understood, the child is supported in considering how to move on to make significant changes, as a result of a far deeper understanding and awareness of how their history has been negatively impacting on their present. In essence, therapeutic life story is not just about the who, what, where, when, why and how, but how a painful past, if not reflected on and worked through, can go on to blight present and future. Instead, if we can help children to think about their history of trauma and loss, to understand its origins and effects, we can identify and understand the 'ghosts of the past' so children are no longer haunted by them. (Adapted from the Diploma in Therapeutic Life Story Work)
The approach involves working with the child, the parent/carer and a qualified Play Therapist and it is designed to strengthen the relationship between the child and their parent/carer.
Who Might Therapeutic Life Story Work Help?
- children and young people who are struggling with their identity and making sense of who they are and what has happened to them in the past.
- children and young people who have experienced early life abuse and/or trauma
- foster or adoption placements that are struggling and at risk of breaking down
- children in care or who have been adopted who are asking questions about their past
How it Works
Therapeutic Life Story Work has 3 stages:
1. The Information Bank – This stage involves the gathering of in-depth historical information about the child: both pre-birth and post-birth history. The information will be carefully gathered from various sources to develop a holistic view of the child's experiences. By ascertaining a detailed history, will enable an informed understanding of where the child has come from and the relationships they have experienced, thus providing information about the child's internal working model and their attachment strategies. It will also identify any gaps in the child's history that can be researched. By collating this information provides the narrative to the second stage of the Therapeutic Life Story Work; Internalisation.
- Reviewing historical case files
- Meeting with birth sibling parent, Therapist, Social Worker and parents
- Collating the information into a narrative for the child
- Preparing sessions for Internalisation stage
2. The Internalisation Stage
"The ideal internalisation is one where the child reaches acceptance of who she was, who she is and a clear understanding that she has the power to shape who she can be." (Rose, 2012)
This stage is about undertaking sessions with the child and their parents/carers to help the child to gain a coherent narrative about their life journey and develop an informed positive sense of self. It is an opportunity through play and creative mediums for the child and parents to explore the feelings and thoughts related to their life experiences. This stage is generally about 12 -18 sessions and is undertaken with child, parents and therapist.
3. The Life Story Book
This stage occurs towards the end of the sessions and a life story book is completed incorporating the child's work developed in the internalisation stage. The child is involved in the development of the book, enabling them to have ownership of their life story.
Artspsychotherapy.org. (2017). Diploma in Therapeutic Life Story Work (University of East London validated course) | Child Therapy | Therapy Courses. [online] Available at: https://artspsychotherapy.org/child-therapy/diploma-in-therapeutic-life-story-work [Accessed 28 Dec. 2017].
Rose, R. (2012) Life Story Therapy with Traumatised Children: A Model of Practice. London; Jessica Kingsley