Exercise

■ Find a story that you like or enjoy and practice telling it to other people, enthusiastically. Let yourself express your feelings, your involvement, and your enjoyment.

■ Do the same with a child. Practice telling a story you can relate enthusiastically.

■ Tell another story that you do not find stimulating, enjoyable, or exciting to tell. Watch for the verbal and nonverbal feedback from your listener.

3. Use Your Intelligence, Integrity, and Ethics

Stories do not need to be factual. The sky can be green, trees can talk, elephants can fly, and fairies can exist; but, despite the fantasy, stories contain a reality that communicates a truth, a value, or a way of being. This is part of a story's beauty and the joy of working with stories. They offer the listener the paradox of suspending reality testing at one level while presenting a very real message at another.

Take, for example, the traditional story of the Three Little Pigs. Both storyteller and children who are listening accept, at least for the length of the tale, things they otherwise would hold to be untrue: that pigs can talk among themselves and even with wolves; that pigs can build houses as well as any qualified builder; that they can walk around on two legs and use their front feet for dexterous skills such as laying bricks or putting big pots of water on a fire. But amidst this fantasy, the tale communicates some very real values: If you do something, do it well; hard work has its rewards; solid is better than flimsy; goodness and intelligence can triumph over cunning and evil.

Therapeutic storytelling needs to assume a responsibility and accountability to our clients—especially our youngest ones. It needs to offer messages that responsibly help children achieve what they want or need. Having the child's therapeutic outcome in mind helps to communicate a story with intelligence, integrity, and a sound base in ethics. Setting outcome goals for metaphors will be discussed further in Chapter 16.

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