Offer an Outcome

The final step in telling the tale is the attainment of the specific therapeutic goals that have been negotiated in the Outcome-Oriented Assessment. This may not be the complete goal or the total acquisition of everything the client desires, but may be one of those specific steps leading in the desired direction.

When it comes to how you end the story, there are several possibilities:

■ It may end in a clear, direct, and even poignant outcome, as in the message about looking after yourself (Story 5) or not flying off the handle (Story 47).

■ The outcome may be ambiguous, allowing the child to search for his or her own meaning—such as in Story 25, "Build on What You Are Good At," which might leave the child to ponder, "What am I good at, and how can I build on that?"

■ The story may not reach a conclusion at all but invite the child to find his or her own, as in Story 73, "Collaborative Problem Solving."

At the end, the character discovers what it feels like to reach his or her objective. He may feel confident in just making one small step toward what had previously seemed an unobtainable objective. She may discover what differences it makes to the ways that she is thinking, feeling, and doing things. He might look forward to replicating those experiences again in the future so that the outcome is not just a one-time achievement. Or she may simply enjoy the process of learning and discovering.

We need to be mindful that our young listeners may not necessarily interpret the story in the way in which we had intended it to be heard. They may project a meaning into the story that we, the therapist, had not necessarily intended to communicate. Ifthis is the case, it is important to work with the interpretation the child derives from the story, for that may have greater impact and meaning than the message we had planned. In our storytelling we need to be flexible enough to build on the child's meanings in a way that constructively helps that child move toward the desired therapeutic goal.

In sum, a simple guide is to plan the metaphor in the order Outcome, Resources, Problem, and Character, then present or tell the metaphor as a story that moves from the Problem, through the Resources, to the Outcome. In this process, it may be helpful to revisit the guidelines for effective storytelling that I discussed in Chapter 2, along with the use of the storyteller's voice. My encouragement is that you experiment with these guidelines to help enhance the effectiveness ofthe therapeutic message. Test them out, see the things that work for you and your clients. Use those things that help engage your listeners and involve them in the process of storytelling. Discard those that do not.

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