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Archive for February, 2016

Externalizing

 

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Context: this occurred over a 50 minute session with a brilliant and creative 12 year old girl with ASD. We’ll call her Sue. It began as a conversation about fashion. The topic was “fashion snobs”. As is always the case, Sue has a drawing app open in front of her so that she can draw and talk. She begins to draw this “snob”, who is described a lot like a recurring character in a Nickolodian sitcom (the stereotypical high school “mean girl”). While embellishing her topic of interest, I mention how curious I’d be to see “the nice girl”. I say that I’m going to start to draw her as Sue continues drawing the “mean girl”. I ask sue for help along the way – just small details that describe this “nice girl”.

The above image is what we came up with. Interestingly, this is very representative of the girl Sue wants to be and often is when she’s on her game. The picture represents unique ideas about right and wrong, social expectations, personality eccentricities, wishes, interests/passions, insecurities, etc.

Through simply trusting the process of engaging an individual in her interests and being curious (DIR-Floortime), we are able to create a character that starts a conversation about who Sue is, what’s she’s aware of regarding herself, and the person she’d like to be more often. This is not only a fascinating process but also a therapeutic one. Sue tells her story to someone who can help her record and reflect on the way she experiences the world. She talks about her insecurities without feeling exposed. She creates a narrative role model. Lastly, she gets to see how close she already is to her ideal self.

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Dear Reader,

Stories or “narratives” are created throughout our lives. They are constructed by our experiences, the relationships we have with those around, societal/cultural norms, our values and beliefs, etc. Often, these narratives can take on a negative flavor and cause us problems. Narrative therapy works to help the individual tell his/her story while externalizing the problem (Separating the problem from the individual. Think of Rock Brain in the social learning curriculum) and coming up with alternative stories. This practice believes that by helping you author and tell your story (becoming aware of the narratives you hold), with supportive feedback and perspective from others around you (who do not guide or shape your story), that you can find a way of writing a new narrative that works for you. It may come as no surprise to those who work with me that I prescribe to this philosophy strongly in my cartooning work with kids.

Check out this great slideshow explaining Narrative therapy in more detail:

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