It was a pleasure to meet with you again in October along with the TSI's USA Leaders: Michael Bolden, National Secretary of YouthHealth USA and International, and Tanya Dennis, Head for the education Board of YouthHealth USA. Our discussion of the ways we can work together to bring Therapeutic Storytelling Intervention to the University of San Francisco's Mission Possible schools was most productive.
The USF Center for Child and Family Development is involved yearly with about 30 San Francisco/Bay area schools. We place MFT trainees in the schools and they provide School-Based Family Counseling to at risk students and their families. The schools (both public and Catholic) have a serious lack of resources with an average of only 1 counselor for every 350 students. We have wanted, for many years, to add a group counseling component to our Mission Possible program. However we have lacked the resources to deliver it.
I believe that your Therapeutic Storytelling Intervention (TSI) program is exactly what we need in these schools. The TSI program has a number of strengths that make it a useful approach for School-Based Family Counselors to learn:
1. It uses Storytelling as the vehicle to engage students. In doing so it de-therapizes the group counseling process and thereby minimizes student resistance to participation. This therapeutic use of Storytelling is consistent with Narrative Therapy and other strength-based approaches.
2. It is highly structured with well developed materials for students, as well as group leaders. The materials, designed for facilitating personal growth and responsible decision making, unfold developmentally over the 16 session course. Because of the structure, the TSI approach can be taught to trainees in a relatively short period of time. This is important because trainees are only placed in a school for 9 months.
3. Center trainees who attended your 1 day in-service training on TSI in 2001 were enthusiastic about the approach. Dr. George Boisson, the Associate Director of the Center, also attended your workshop and he was impressed with the approach as well. I had similar responses from MFT students in my techniques course when you did a TSI demonstration. It was clear to my students and me that the TSI approach is very engaging in a way that minimizes participant resistance.
4. The TSI program has a proven track record based on solid outcome research. Your recently completed 5-year study with Dr. Sarah Fortune was ground-breaking in a number of respects: a) you used a large sample size of 350, and b) along with standardized dependent measures such as the Beck Depression Inventory and the Child Behavior Checklist, you used the McMaster Family Assessment Device. The inclusion of a family assessment is often overlooked in this type of research. Your finding that 60% of the participants completed the 16 session program and attended 85% of the time is particularly important. Considering that the average number of group counseling sessions attended by clients in this age group (latency and adolescent) is three, these are remarkable results.
5. The TSI program has been in use now for more than 10 years and has enjoyed a growing acceptance by educators and mental health professionals. It has been adopted widely in New Zealand, where you pioneered the program, and is now used with youth in schools, churches, mental health clinics, the criminal justice system, and the DARE program. I appreciated your sharing with me the feature that New Zealand's 60 Minutes TV show did on TSI, and I hope to share it with Center staff in the near future. Your recent extension of TSI to families is particularly innovative and is congruent with School-Based Family Counseling approaches. Charles Fishman, who together with Salvadore Minuchin authored Family Therapy Techniques, has endorsed TSI as "probably the best approach to adolescent group counseling".
An additional strength, I should add, is that you are a graduate of the Counseling Psychology Department at USF and a dedicated alumnus. That is, you are very familiar with USF and appreciate that we work with Catholic schools as well as public schools.
I would like to propose an initial 2 year pilot project that would bring TSI to the Mission Possible schools. This would necessitate development of a proposal to present to foundations. I will need to secure the appropriate USF approvals (from my Board and Dean) in order to move forward with USF fundraising. Michael has indicated that YouthHealth USA and YouthHealth International would be willing to make a commitment to conduct fundraising in order to help bring TSI to the Mission Possible schools. This is a generous offer and I appreciate it very much.
At our meeting we also discussed the possibility of the Center for Child and Family Development co-sponsoring (with YouthHealth USA) workshops on TSI for mental health professionals who want to develop leadership skills in running TSI groups. The benefit to you would be that the Center's name would help promote TSI to a wider audience. Benefits to the Center would include the generation of some income and the launching of a Center continuing education program.
I believe that TSI has a great deal to offer the Center for Child and Family Development and I look forward to further discussions with you.
Brian A. Gerrard, Ph.D.
USF Center for Child and Family Development