Avoid Using the Stories Exactly as You Have Read Them

If I may offer a suggestion, it is this: Use the stories I have offered as ideas rather than as tales to recite verbatim. In saying this, I am mindful that some colleagues I respect as competent therapists have told me that they read stories from my previous metaphor book, 101 Healing Stories (Burns, 2001), with therapeutic success for a given client or in a group. While this may work at times, generally it is more personally relevant for the child if the metaphors are individually directed, and are part of the conversation taking place in the therapeutic relationship at that point in time. The stories I have told were designed for a particular client with a particular therapeutic outcome in mind, at a particular point in time. What might be relevant or helpful for one child at one time may not be so relevant or helpful for the next child, even if he or she seeks the same outcome. It was not without difficulty that I found myself putting these stories in writing, because most of my healing stories are told verbally. They are adapted to the subtle verbal and nonverbal communication and feedback that I observe from a client. They may be developed collaboratively through questions I ask or comments that a young listener makes. They are, in the tradition of storytelling, fluid and flexible—a quality they tend to lose when printed in black and white.

Preceding each story in Part Two are the therapeutic characteristics I see in the tale. Of course, there may be others you observe and I would ask you do not be limited by my perceptions. These therapeutic characteristics include the problems each tale addresses, the resources it seeks to develop, and the outcomes it offers. I refer to this as the PRO (problem, resources, and outcome) approach. As a practicing clinician, I find it more useful and pragmatic to keep this three-point skeleton of the story in mind than attempting to memorize a whole tale and repeat it verbatim. With the skeleton, and a little practice, it soon becomes possible to flesh out the details in a personally relevant manner for the individual child. Indeed, a core quality of metaphor therapy is its ability to adapt to the uniqueness of each client, whether child, adolescent, or adult.

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