This is taken frrom the outstanding book on the work of psychotherapists by Jeffrey A. Kottler, On being a therapist.
‘Why is storytelling such a critical part of what we do, and what functions does it serve within the therapeutic process, regardless of the particular approach? her is a list of features to consider:
- Stories capture attention. Immediately. Just hearing the words, “Once upon a time…” puts us into a trance. Stories are entertaining and provocative in ways that a mere conversation can’t touch.
- Stories naturally follow the structural properties of memory. We tend to be more likely to hold onto ideas or experiences when they are imbedded in stories.
- Therapeutic-type stories such as metaphors offer coded information in a much more efficient package. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a metaphor can capture and hold complex ideas that can’t be merely described or explained. They also access unconscious processes to enhance their potential for promoting change.
- Given that vivid storytelling provides a kind of “direct eperience” through vicarious imagination, we can lead clients to places they could never otherwise visit on their own.
- Well-told stories activate strong emotional reactions, the kind that inspire, motivate, or ignite passion. Review any of the greatest speeches ever given, or a list of the most beloved TED talks, and you will find that almost all of them begin with a compelling story that rivets audience interest.
- Stories can be “hypnotic” in that they can induce altered states of consciousness through immersion in the narrative. When you are reading a great novel or watching an exciting film, hours fly by, and it feels as if you have entered into the action.
- Stories almost always take place within a particular cultural and historical context, whether within an individual or the larger community. The narrative is understood as representing certain social or environmental values that are critical to the meaning making.
- Storytelling often bypasses resistance and defensiveness because of its subtlety and visual imagery. You can explain something that is threatening, or tell clients they need to do something that they don’t want to do- or, you can tell a story that contains within it a plot or characters by which clients can position themselves or identify with the action that may parallel their own struggles.
- Because stories have multiple dimensions of complexity and cognitive processing, they operate on levels we don’t thoroughly understand but still have powerful effects.
- Instead of calling clients “names”, in the form of a diagnosis, we can instead provide a much more meaningful representation of their experience and problems in the form of a digestible story.
- Stories produce overarching, organizing scaffolds that assist with deeper understanding of events and experiences.
- Much of what we do in therapy is present alternative realities that may be possible as viewed through fantasy stories or fairy tales. They often include creative pathways and options for viewing problems and their solutions.
- When therapists disclose (appropriate and well-timed) personal stories, they reduce the power imbalance in the relationship as well as model the kind of deep sharing that is desirable for the client.
- Alternative stories constructed by therapists help to reframe and reconstruct the “victim stories” of trauma survivors into versions that emphasize courage and resilience.’
On being a therapist, Jeffrey A. Kottler, pages 58 and 59