Storiez: Narrative Healing with Inner City Youth
Every person has a story. Many stories include pain and sadness, but they also include strength and resilience. Storiez helps inner city youth and others who have had difficult life experiences to create, voice, and honor their narratives.
Several elements make Storiez different from other trauma-informed approaches. Storiez is creatively engaging, strengths-based, person-centered, culturally sensitive, flexible, inclusive, and respectful. Storiez strives to be on the cutting edge of innovation, encouraging trauma survivors to tap into their strength and creativity in their journey to healing.
Storiez provides resources and training to trauma survivors, therapists, teachers, parents, and community leaders. Resources include four guides, two children’s books, “feelingz” tools, and supplemental videos. Interactive trainings seek to educate the community about narrative-based pathways to trauma healing. They also present creative, client-centered tools to bridge the gap between trauma theory and culturally relevant, engaging practice.
Storiez partners with the community in helping trauma survivors pull from their inner strengths to overcome life challenges. Storiez supports individuals, organizations, and communities as they answer the questions: “Where have I been? Where am I now? Where do I want to be?” This is accomplished through community events, consultation, presentations, and involvement in trauma-focused work groups.
There is something redemptive about the act of creating. To infuse the ordinary with imagination and life. To transform the mundane into something exceptional. To find wholeness in the broken. Purpose in the pain. Creativity can facilitate healing. Unfortunately, for many child survivors of trauma, their opportunities for exploration and creativity are scarce. A look at the trauma literature reveals that many contemporary, trauma-focused interventions leave little room for creative healing processes.
The Storiez intervention actively seeks to provide opportunities for traumatized youth to participate in creative exploration. Storiez intentionally provides youth with the creative flexibility to express their life narratives using a diverse array of formats and mediums- from video and collage to writing and photography. Creativity and innovation are a fundamental tenet of the Storiez approach- pairing imagination and ingenuity with life experiences to develop a rich, cohesive narrative teeming with possibility for healing, growth, and future development.
Storiez, which initially debuted in November of 2015, has trained over 800 community leaders and clinicians during presentations at a wide range of venues. Storiez engages members of the trauma community by taking an innovative, engaging, culturally sensitive, and clear approach. Exploration of the trauma literature can feel daunting, especially for professionals and survivors attempting to balance a variety of stressors and responsibilities. Storiez accommodates for these factors by presenting materials in an approachable, concise way. Each guide and accompanying training is organized according to clear steps that professionals and trauma survivors can implement in a variety of settings. Storiez materials and trainings feature creative elements including art, video, photographs, and bold graphic design, distinguishing Storiez resources from other trauma-informed resources.
Narratives cross systemic, cultural, and geographical barriers. Narratives live and breathe behind the bars of maximum security prisons. They live within the brick walls of urban schools. They live in homes. In residential treatment facilities. After school programs. Outpatient therapy centers. Community arts organizations. Because of the unifying nature of narratives and the versatility of Storiez, the program has built relationships with a wide range of organizations. These organizations include Philadelphia’s City Hall, the Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy and Practice, the Philadelphia ACE’s Taskforce, University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, Bryn Mawr College, the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, Mastery Charter Schools, Safe Kids Stories, Resources for Human Development, United Way, the Clay Studio, and Center for Grieving Children. Storiez resources were intentionally crafted to be versatile, flexible tools to meet the divergent needs of traumatized youth across settings.
Storiez offers four guides to support trauma survivors as they seek to heal from past experiences. Two of the guides support trauma survivors as they tell their stories with the help of a therapist (Storiez: A Guide for Therapists and Storiez: A Guide for Children and Teenagers). Storiez: A Do It Yourself Guide helps traumatized individuals tell their stories independently or with the help of a support person (a teacher, family member, community leader, peer, or therapist). Storiez: A Feelingz Guide is a tool for children, teenagers, and adults who want to get in touch with their emotions. Each of these adaptable, flexible resources can be implemented in a variety of settings. These settings include homes, after school programs, educational institutions, mental health agencies, religious organizations, community programs, criminal justice facilities, arts based organizations, and specialized treatment programs.
Storiez trained approximately 800 professionals since its inception in November of 2015. Post-training evaluations yielded the following average scores (out of 10):
Increased knowledge about how to facilitate the creation of trauma narratives with inner city youth: 9.7
Engaging presentation style in accomplishing learning goals: 9.7
Increased knowledge and understanding of the prevalence and impact of trauma on inner city youth: 8.6
Comfort using Storiez intervention with traumatized clients: 8.7
Overall training rating: 9.7
In October of 2016, the University of Pennsylvania approved Storiez to facilitate a small qualitative research study. Twelve Master’s level clinicians participated in Storiez training and brief qualitative interviews following an implementation phase. Participants spoke to distinguishing elements of Storiez including its ease, approachability, portability, client focus, and strengths-based perspective. Clinicians described Storiez as a contained, structured approach that provides clients with an increased sense of control and ownership over the narrative process.
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