Friday, December 9, 2011

Why Stories Matter

I believe in stories.  That's hardly surprising -- I'm an English professor, after all.  But my faith in stories, and in the act of storytelling, isn't just about Literature with a capital L.  Whether in research, spiritual life, relationships, or simply sorting out my own experiences, stories are rich, complex material.  We use stories to give meaning to what happens to us.  By translating experience into story, we connect individual lives with context and ideas.

So I was interested in the work Lee and Johanna Slivinske have done with stories as a tool in therapy with children.  In a way, the value of stories in therapy (with anyone, not just kids) seems obvious.  What's most interesting about the Slivinske's book, Storytelling and Other Activities for Children in Therapy (Wiley, 2011) is the variety of techniques and examples it offers.  They provide an explanation for why stories are useful and how they can be incorporated into therapy, but then they have pages and pages of examples, geared to a wide range of issues. 

Even for those of us who don't work as therapists, this concept seems useful.  Storytelling happens more or less naturally in most of our lives, but I wonder how often we use it deliberately, as a tool?  I tell stories in the classroom all the time, though I can't say that I've been especially thoughtful or intentional about it.  How does storytelling fit into your work?  Into your life?

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