Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

The Life Story Board: A Feasibility Study of a Visual Interview Tool for School Counsellors/Le Scénario-Maquette De la Vie: Une éTude De Faisabilité D'un Outil D'entrevue Visuelle Pour Les Conseillers/conseillères Scolaires

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

The Life Story Board: A Feasibility Study of a Visual Interview Tool for School Counsellors/Le Scénario-Maquette De la Vie: Une éTude De Faisabilité D'un Outil D'entrevue Visuelle Pour Les Conseillers/conseillères Scolaires

Article excerpt

This article presents the findings of a study on a novel visual language system, the Life Story Board (LSB). The LSB takes the form of a play board and kit of magnetic cards and accessories, to be used as a practical clinical tool for counsellors, other helping professionals, and researchers. A prototype version of the LSB was pilot-tested to assess its clinical feasibility for school counsellors in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for use with newcomer student clients.

BACKGROUND

Visual tools are used by many counsellors as effective means to elicit and display information upon which verbal interactions and therapeutic conversations proceed. The family diagram was developed in the late 1950s by Murray Bowen to portray facts of functioning (physical problems, emotional symptoms, and educational achievement) that reflect the emotional processes within the family, as framed within a unifying natural systems theory (Bowen theory; Bowen & Kerr, 1988; Butler, 2008). The genogram derives from the family diagram exemplified by McGoldrick, Gerson, and Shellenberger (1999) that is widely used across a range of professions. The genogram views problems within a family systems perspective across at least three generations, and identifies multiple contextual levels impacting the nuclear family (e.g., gender, ethnicity, family life cycle). The ecomap is another visual system used by clinicians and researchers to depict supports and connections surrounding an individual or group of individuals, which fits a social ecology perspective as summarized by Baumgartner and Buchanan (2010).

Carpenter-Aeby, Aeby, and Boyd (2007) combined genograms and ecomaps to map out the interconnecting layers of issues in students with problem-saturated families assigned to a mandatory alternative education program. Underlying such research is the vision of an interdisciplinary method of communication that can portray relevant information useful to both clinician and client and can facilitate the process of therapy.

Methods that incorporate visual, narrative, and experiential processes may have more advantages in eliciting personal information from children than standard verbal interviews or questionnaires, particularly in non-Western cultural contexts and disadvantaged community settings (de Berry & Boyden, 2000). There is an emerging literature on interventions involving narratives, testimonials, and storytelling that are distinct from clinical, psychometric assessment of psychiatric disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (Lustig & Tennakoon, 2008). As Freedman, Thornton, Camburn, Alwin, and Young-DeMarco (1987) suggest, identifying key influences in a child's life through a mutually collaborative process may be particularly valuable early in the therapeutic relationship.

The LSB is a tabletop activity played on a board using sets of cards and a notation scheme with which to construct a pictorial map of a client's life experiences and circumstances. The board's coloured zones represent areas of the life of individuals: personal (yellow), proximal family and relations (green), and community and distal circles (blue). Across the top of the board is a timeline, shown as a red arc (Figure 1). The board becomes a field of time, space, and relational dimensions on which are placed variously shaped and coloured "element" cards to represent persons, events, dwellings, acts, roles, relationships, feelings, behaviours, activities, thoughts, and self-esteem. As an information system it operates as a visual taxonomy of the interrelated dimensions and elements of a personal narrative. The counsellor guiding the LSB session co-constructs with the client a lifescape, representing key semantic elements in a meaningful, multilayered representation.

LSB methods were developed by one of the authors, Rob Chase, as an alternative to conventional interview and questionnaire approaches in field research with war-affected children since the 1990s. …

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