Stop Look And Listen

It is a useful skill for a therapist to be a little dissociative, by which I mean the ability for one part of you to be engaged fully in the storytelling process with the child, and another part to be standing back a little, observing the child's responses and adapting your tale to their needs. As you tell the tale, you may want to look for, and listen to, the individual reactions that communicate whether your tale is having an impact or missing the mark. Is the child sitting still, looking at you wide-eyed, appearing curious about what happens next? or restless, swinging his legs, fidgeting with her fingers, gazing around the room to find something more interesting? And, when you have made the observation, what do you do with it?

If signs of distraction are present, it is usually a good indication that a child is not engaged in the therapeutic process, or has not identified with the story and, as a result, your words may be falling on deaf ears. Part of the art of good storytelling is the flexibility to adapt and adjust to the needs of the listener and the situation with questions to yourself, like, do I incorporate the child's behavior into the story and have the character reflect the distraction that the child is experiencing? Do I change the story in an attempt to engage the child more? Do I stop and ask the child, if he were the character, what he might do at this point of the story? Do I change the character or problem to better match the interests, hobbies, or sporting activities of my listener? These are the type of questions that will help keep your story relevant and the outcome beneficial. So in saying "stop, look, and listen," I want to emphasize the value of taking a mental pause in your storytelling to observe what is happening for your listener, then adapt and adjust your tale, if necessary, for the effectiveness of the story and benefit of the listener.

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