What is the Problem

Once you have defined the outcome of the story and the means or resources needed to reach the outcome, then you can ask, "What is a problem with which the child might identify?" In our analogy of the outcome being the destination on a map and the resources the various means for getting there, the problem represents the challenges to your departure: getting time off work, affording the accommodations, deciding what to take, and so on. Once you have defined the outcome, and explored the resources necessary to reach that outcome, it is easier to ask what matching problem will engage the child, and move the story toward its therapeutic goal.

The types of questions that are helpful for the therapist to ask here are: What metaphoric problem will match the problem of the child? What is a crisis, or challenge, with which the young listener may identify? I find it helpful to keep in mind that the problem is simply the vehicle, or starting point, to the story. It serves as the basis to move on to the essence of the metaphor—developing the resources and reaching the outcome.

Story 73, "Collaborative Problem Solving," presents a matching metaphor that is designed to parallel the child listener in age, gender, and experiences as well as in the problem, which, in this case, is insomnia. Having engaged the child in the storytelling process, it then becomes possible to explore the resources necessary to reach the outcome. A similar example can be found among the children's stories in Chapter 13, Story 99, "When There Is Nothing I Can Do."

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