Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Friday, July 27, 2007

Stories: Not Tellers, Rather Motivators & Teachers

Prompted by Rob Straby's recent post, I've just be musing over Hansen's article about storytelling as it applies to the process of building a career, entitled “Plotting the Story of Your Ideal Career.” As the title implies, this article is intended as advice from a counsellor to a person hoping to pursue a more rewarding career, and the advice is about how the client might use storytelling to gain an understanding of their past and to script their future.

Although the article might well prove useful to counsellors seeking to aid clients in constructing stories there seems to be nothing in the article about how to aid clients in making sense of their own stories. I would therefore say that, in the absence of other articles in this area, we need more discussion about how one should proceed when using this counselling approach.

What skills would a good counsellor have who wants to do this kind of work?

I hope that no-one would expect me to say at this point! However, it does seem to me that the skills would be in two broad categories:
  • The counsellor should be able to motivate the client to continue with the task of completing stories to their own satisfaction, without imposing the counsellor's biases.
  • The counsellor should be somewhat like a good literature teacher who is able to induce students to probe for motifs, themes, metaphors, and so on that are within the realm of meaning of the client. In other words, the counsellor needs to be able to guide the client in exploring the client's own stories for meaning.
I cannot possibly have said anything new. At least these thoughts are no longer running around in my head. I really need to acknowledge an intellectual debt to people like Michael Mead, Richard Rorty and, not least, Rob Straby for making me aware of the importance of stories and literature.