What exactly are therapeutic stories and how do they work?

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Stories can sometimes be a very powerful medium for helping or healing.
Stories can sometimes be a very powerful medium for helping or healing.

Susan Perrow is an international author, famous for her therapeutic stories that help children - and adults - to address challenging behaviours and to navigate difficult situations such as divorce or trauma.

Here she explains how 'story medicine' works.


A therapeutic, or healing, story is a teaching strategy which uses metaphor and story as an indirect tool for regulation of behaviour and helping with trauma. 

As medicine is used to help restore wholeness or balance to out-of-balance physical conditions, story medicine in the form of therapeutic or healing stories can be an imaginative and effective strategy for helping shift out-of-balance behaviour back towards wholeness or balance. 

Therapeutic storytelling is a subtle yet often effective means of addressing challenging and traumatic situations and topics. 

Working with a specific selection of metaphors chosen for the specific behaviour or situation, the story form offers a healing medium that allows the listener to embark on an imaginative journey, rather than being lectured or directly addressed about the issue.  

Also read: ‘Stories know the way’: We unpack the power and magic of story medicine with Susan Perrow

By identifying with the main character or characters, the child/teen/adult is empowered as obstacles are overcome and a resolution achieved.

When contemplating a story to heal a challenging behaviour, it is not a question of 'bad' behaviour made 'good' through a story, or 'naughty' children/teenagers made into 'good' children/teenagers through a story. 

In fact, such labels are entirely inappropriate, and could add to the problem. 

It is about using the medium of story to help the process of bringing an out-of-balance behaviour or situation back towards wholeness or balance.

When working with challenging behaviours, storytelling is just one of many possible approaches and strategies. 

Stories cannot be seen as magic pills to fix all problems, however they can sometimes be a very powerful medium for helping or healing. 

Therapeutic stories can work for everyone. The key is the metaphors used in the story journey, and metaphors speak to all ages.

Find beautiful local stories to share with your family here

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