Encouraging storytelling part 3

Published in Features on 17 Feb 2015

Turning points

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.

Sharing safely

These are my safety guidelines - the more vulnerable the group the more of the list gets implemented…

  1. Developing your own skills is most important - skills of listening and responding appropriately to people's stories
  2. Having a co-leader is invaluable especially if you are used to working together
  3. Having support workers who know the group members if you don't is essential with vulnerable people
  4. 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.