This exercise comes with a health warning - it can unearth unwanted emotions. Participants need to be encouraged to look after themselves and only deal with parts of their lives that they choose to.
Draw a linear graph of the ups and downs of your life. Make it as simple or complex as you like, add colour and illustration. This was a particularly useful tool during a two year project with asylum seekers where language was limited.
But the key question is what happened at the turning points? When it changed direction - these are the points of often dramatic life events. I am always amazed at people's willingness to share their very human life changing stories with a group who are willing to listen.
These are my safety guidelines - the more vulnerable the group the more of the list gets implemented…
- Developing your own skills is most important - skills of listening and responding appropriately to people's stories
- Having a co-leader is invaluable especially if you are used to working together
- Having support workers who know the group members if you don't is essential with vulnerable people
- Having access to a counsellor or therapist for the group and for yourself - working with personal stories is at the borderline between participatory art and therapy - it is important to know where the line is and not to go beyond where you can work safely within your skill capacity.