From the beginning of my career, at the coalface with adolescent boys and girls, I quickly recognised that the adult approaches in group therapy, that I had learned at University, were not effective for teenagers. The last thing that the multi-problem adolescents I was working with wanted was to appear unusual. The fear of disclosing one’s own dysfunction was enough to put these kids off. Trying to fit resistant teens into an adult model left me feeling like the ‘bait’! It just didn’t work because the kids split!
Yet I had a premise that groups, and the power of peer influence, would be the best way to go. I now believe this to be an absolute fact, based on consistent success with my TSI group methodology. I’ve been telling the same story in the same way for 30 years and every group has a sense of freshness and delivers consistently excellent outcomes because the themes are the issues of life, not of race or gender or economics.
Out of necessity, I quickly developed my own group therapy model and style for multi-problem adolescents. The Gem journey takes a story that is embedded with countless themes and values that resonate with my target group, and delivers the content through storytelling which bypasses the usual suspects of anger, blame, shame and defensiveness. The levels of transference are amazing and the behavioural outcomes are empirically discernible.
Once I started telling stories, an amazing transition occurs, the listeners fall into an altered state or zone where they ‘listen in order to learn’. They become invested in the themes, and were eagerly waiting for the next instalment. One client referred to my word pictures as ‘movies’ that he ran in his mind. This was 25 years ago and now, it seems to me, that the cutting edge of research in mindfulness and cognitive reorganisation is just catching up with my work.
The story embeds in the mind of participants and is with them for life. Recently a 35 year old contacted me with testimony of how the group she participated in as an adolescent has made a lasting difference in her life. I have examples of kids coming to the group while on the run, kids coming to the groups when they are sick, and kid’s encouraging other group members to keep coming and complete the journey. My material ‘invades’ the psychology and ‘drags’ them through the journey and people keep coming back because they see genuine progress.
I can start a new group in less than ten minutes. I make one promise: that I’m going to give them something of greater worth than gold. And I introduce a major paradox: that they will never have to reveal their inner selves and I give them three simple rules: 1. If you don’t want to answer a question you can pass, 2. Don’t bullshit yourself or the process. 3. If Billy or Jimmy is talking I wouldn’t dream of talking and I want you to do the same.
I have worked alongside psychologists and psychiatrists and my work fits in and enhances other models and easily stands alone if necessary. I have been working with the most disturbed kids in a tertiary mental health clinic with a catchment of 600,000+ in South Auckland, New Zealand.
In my private practice I used The Journey in family therapy and the story allows everyone in the family to contribute. I’ve seen family systems realign and parents regaining the mantle of authority and kids respecting that authority. I’ve worked with populations of suicidal teens who had made hospital presentations and yet when major literature says that 20% of such adolescents will re-present within 6 months, less than three per cent of the participants in my groups (within the research group) re-presented.
I want you to have the opportunity of launching this effective and revolutionary programme where you are. The Professionals Pack (from the online store) is full of everything you will need in order to implement Storytelling intervention into your practice. The pack contains examples of how to run the group – commentaries and guides that bring the story alive and also the second novel (The travels of Plymouth) and the accompanying guide as you advance through the Splendora trilogy.