18 May 2004
Thank you for asking me to comment on the role of Therapeutic Storytelling Intervention at Campbell Lodge. Firstly by way of introduction, Campbell Lodge is an Outpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service serving the needs of a culturally diverse population of part of Auckland City. There are probably around 120,000 young people in this area and our task is to provide secondary mental health services to this group. I have been involved in the work of Campbell Lodge for most of the last 15 years. I have worked with you and Therapeutic Storytelling Intervention here at Campbell Lodge for about the last 7 years or so.
When I first became aware of your work, it occurred to me that storytelling as a way of reaching young people has such an extraordinary long history that it is remarkable that we have neglected it in child and adolescent mental health services for so long. The task of helping a young person and their family when they are struggling with emotional or behavioral and psychiatric difficulties is to first of all frame the problem in such a way that there is some hope for change and a willingness to work with the therapists. Typically any discussion about the nature of the problem rapidly becomes complicated by question of who is responsible and who must make changes. Not infrequently young people are most unwilling to enter into these conversations and families can rapidly feel criticised and withdraw. The greatest strength I think of TSI is its simple but elegant approach to this most fundamental of difficulties in the work we do. By telling a story about a boy going through the struggles that all children must go through the young person and their family can join in the journey without being concerned about issues of guilt and blame. The story both acknowledges the strength, complexity and power of the difficulties inherent in growing up, but also never loses its sense of hope in a sense that these struggles are not unusual and shameful but rather universal and ultimately valuable.
Because of the focus on normal developmental tasks and the gentle encouragement to take responsibility for one's decisions, TSI does not clash with any of the other modalities of treatment in child and adolescent mental health. TSI has been integral to the engagement process of many young people here at Campbell Lodge and is able to be combined with other treatment without clash of models or opportunities for splitting processes to disintegrate the care. This is a major strength of the treatment.
The other thing which I think is easily underestimated is the fact that TSI is a fun and engaging form of intervention for young people and their families which it is easy for therapists to enthusiastically recommend and this has given Campbell Lodge a sense of optimism about providing services which could easily be lost amongst the hardships that our young people are facing.
Campbell Lodge has benefited enormously from both your own personal talent and also the practical virtues of the treatment that you have developed. It was a pleasure to be able to recommend TSI to a wider audience.
Dr Hugh Clarkson
Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist/