As a therapist you need to listen well to your client's story and make sure that you understand what s/he is trying to express. By engaging in story on a conscious level, it will heighten this skill.

Stories can also be very effectively used as short teaching tales that highlight a certain theme, or lesson. The story can act as a gateway through which to enter into discussion in a non-threatening way that the client may be more willing to hear. You can also allow the client to interpret the tale in his or her own way. Conversely, stories can also be created by your client that may give you insights into how they see their world in a way in which they may not be able to express directly.

"It has been said that 'the shortest distance between truth and the human heart is a story.' As a therapist/storyteller I find this to be true. Storytelling is an important part of my therapeutic toolkit. I use stories in groups to create a shared and relaxing experience and to invite dialogue. I employ short stories in my therapy practice to offer another way of seeing, or to give clients a metaphor to refer to during times of challenge. I use stories to create empathy and insight in my bullying prevention programs. Finally, knowing how to listen for the stories that clients are telling and helping them to reframe them in healthier ways is at the heart of healing work."

Elisa Pearmain, M.A., M.Ed. LMHC, author of two award-winning books, Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from around the World (Pilgrim Press, 1998), and Once Upon a Time: Storytelling to Build Character and Prevent Bullying (Character Development Group, 2006).

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