Therapeutic Life Story Work

What is Therapeutic Life Story Work?

Different to traditional Life Story Work or Life History Work, Therapeutic Life Story Work (or TLSW) is a defined approach pioneered by Richard Rose that directly involves the child’s primary carer (very often an adoptive parent or long term foster carer) from the beginning of the process to the end.  Working as a triad with the TLSW practitioner, this intervention is designed to strengthen the relationship between the child and their parent/carer through exploring together the child’s history.

If children are not helped to understand and make sense of the trauma that they have experienced, then it is well known that they carry it around within them, unresolved, forever. This pre-occupation with things that they cannot get rid of, often makes it difficult for a traumatised child to function ordinarily.

“preoccupation with the past and wariness of the present means that there is less of the child existing….she remains fixed in her past” – Richard Rose

Who Might Therapeutic Life Story Work Help?

  • children and young people who are struggling with their identity and making sense of who they are and what has happened to them in the past. TLSW is most effectively used with children and young people aged between 4 and 17 years

  • children and young people who have experienced early life abuse and/or trauma

  • foster or adoption placements that are struggling and at risk of breaking down

  • children in care or who have been adopted who are asking questions about their past

How it Works

Therapeutic Life Story Work has 3 stages:

  1. The Information Bank – the TLSW practitioner collates an array of information from Social Work files, interviews and physical evidence. They then consider how the child views their world and what their attachment issues may be

  2. Internalisation – the child is encouraged to externalise their thoughts, feelings and emotions and this is what is explored and recorded on the wallpaper. This is always carried out alongside the primary carer and usually takes 18 sessions

  3. The Life Story Book – contains the information recorded on the wallpaper, which has been internalised by the child. It is up to the child to decide what is included as a representation for others to see

Known Outcomes

  • the child has a deeper understanding and acceptance of their life history and a more positive and healthy self identity

  • through knowing their life story, children and young people are less pre-occupied with questions and the not knowing and as a result, they are often calmer and more focused in their thinking and behaviour

  • as TLSW works as a triad, the child and primary carer ultimately have a deeper understanding of each other’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and so attachments are greatly strengthened

  • deeper understanding and stronger attachments often leads to a decrease in the likelihood of a placement breakdown

  • completion of a Life Story Book at the end of the intervention

“the very fact that adults hesitate to share with a child information about his or her past implies that it is so bad that the young person won’t be able to cope with it. Whatever the past was, the child has lived through it and survived. He or she has already demonstrated survival skills” - Vera Fahlberg