Beyond bringing in books to the therapy session, I wanted to highlight the various ways that stories can impact the therapeutic relationship and promote emotional processing with children. There are too many to name here, so I had to pick my top five!
If you’ve ever read Dan Siegal’s book, “The Whole Brain Child”, then you know how powerful stories are to children. He describes how stories are an amazing way for children to process any type of adversity they face, as it requires all parts of their brain to process the information. As adults, we can do so much for children if we can create a space for them to tell (and re-tell!) stories that are based on their experiences.
TT5: Stories In Creative Therapy!
- DICE: Using dice with these visual supports! I absolutely LOVE bringing dice into sessions and kids have loved using Roll-A-Story visuals that guide them in choosing different characters and settings. I find that the more simple the better, and that kids will bring in familiar themes into the storytelling. Sometimes after using this visual, I’ll challenge some children to create a story without the visual guide and this requires a little more thinking and processing, but often children will pick experiences that they want to work through at this time.
- SOUNDSCAPES: What are soundscapes? Basically it’s using instruments and other sounds to create background “noises” to support a story. Let’s imagine you are writing a story with a kiddo. He says “And then the sword fall from the King’s hand onto the cold floor!” What a great space to add a **clink** sound!! What could serve to make a clink sound? This is one of my favorite questions– asking kids to help create the sound and find objects that make that noise! This works especially well with telehealth since children can use items in their home– it requires them to get really creative!
- ACT IT OUT: The power of embodying a character is something I’ve discussed with drama therapists and play therapists on the podcast. When children are able to “test” out, explore, and try on new roles, they are able to build empathy, gain a better understanding of different perspectives, and process difficult situations. After creating a story together, ask your client if they’d like to act it out! Some kids like to jump into this idea right away without hesitation, while others tend to want to plan and organize the story. Either way, it’s a powerful experience. Throughout the experience, there are many opportunities to reflect emotions which can be so powerful for children.
- MAKE IT OR CREATE IT: So many children that I create a story with want to bring it into a physical space. They want to cut the characters out of paper, use different toys to represent the characters, or bring it out in some other way. This is such a great expansion to a story because it can be re-told (which we know is SO helpful to emotional processing) in a way that isn’t redundant and is motivating for children. You can have some items on hand to support this– figurines, game pieces, and various art materials (paper, scissors, cut-out characters).
- EXPAND INTO NATURE: Nature is so grounding and we’ve learned this even more since moving to telehealth. If you are seeing your client face-to-face you can do this by going outside for a walk while you re-tell the story together. You can also find outdoor objects to represent different aspects of the story and bring them back inside to create a project from them. If you are doing telehealth with your client, you can do this by bringing in nature items ahead of time to have the child choose from. Mail these items (I try to choose things that can be easily mailed) and send them to your client. At the next session come up with ways to use these items in the story or to create! If you need some inspiration for this step, take a listen to episode #4 with Mika McLane on the podcast!
These are my top five favorite ways to include stories into therapy, but there are ENDLESS ways to do this. If you want more ideas, you can join my newsletter here and get this free download immediately! This goes into a variety of ways to use music, art, movement, theater, Sandtray, and nature for stories in therapy. I like to always remind people to stay within their scope of practice, which only you can know the intricacies of. The expressive arts are incredibly powerful!