Therapeutic Approach: The Story Within

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The technique was developed over fifteen years in hospital settings and in private practice working with children, adolescents, and adults. I have found it to be effective for clients with eating disorders, anxiety, conduct disorders, social disorders, delinquency, and for victims of physical and sexual abuse. It has also proved to be an effective technique in graduate creative arts therapy training.

THE CONCEPTS

The Story Within is an in-depth therapist-guided exploration of a story personally chosen by the client. The process of finding and working with the right story, character, and dramatic moment provides a safe container within which to connect the challenge in the story with the client’s own personal problem. Its core concepts are:

  • Establishing the group;
  • Encounter-projection exercise;
  • Finding the personal story;
  • Dramatic conflict within the story and specific moment;
  • Becoming the character;
  • Meeting other characters;
  • Facing the edge;
  • In the director’s chair;
  • Creative transformation.

THE PROCESS

  1. The myth/fairy tale, character, and specific dramatic situation or tension within the story to be worked on are selected by the client;
  2. Each client works on his or her own personal story instead of working as a part of a group on a collective story;
  3. The client takes on and moves deeply into one role for many weeks or months;
  4. Clients must identify one specific moment in their story that they will work with, which is an essential therapeutic component of this approach;
  5. Passage through the different stages of creative process is essential to the therapy, and may involve various artistic media, such as mask making, art work, movement, writing, and scene work;
  6. The client directs other people (therapist, other members of a group) in dramatizations of his or her character;
  7. This method interprets the metaphors and symbols within the client’s own personal experience. It is the client’s personal and unique relationship to the story that is emphasized and explored.

In the process of creatively and emotionally engaging with their character’s problem and challenges, clients see things from the character’s point of view. They form an intimate relationship with their chosen character and all of their complexities, motivations, and challenges. This process is almost always intense and deeply emotional as clients allow themselves to be led by their character. Clients come to live the reality of their character’s journey and find themselves confronting their character’s trauma or deepest fear which they gradually realize is their own.

Somewhere hidden in the depths of each story lies a treasure waiting to be discovered. There is not one treasure but manya different treasure for each person who dares to dig deep enough.

FURTHER READING

Silverman, Y. (2004). The story withinmyth and fairy tale in therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy. Vol 31/3 pp. 127-135.

Silverman, Y. (2005). Drama therapytheoretical approaches. In Brooke, S. Creative arts therapies modalities a guide to the history, theoretical approaches, assessment, and work with special populations of art, play, dance, music, drama, and poetry therapies New York: Charles C Thomas.

Silverman, Y. (2006). Drama therapy with adolescent survivors of sexual abuse: the use of myth, metaphor and fairytale. In Brooke, S. The use of the creative therapies with sexual abuse survivors. New York: Charles C Thomas.