Experiences of engaging in therapeutic storytelling

Publication Date05 February 2020
AuthorLucho Aguilera,Kirk Reed,Josie Goulding
SubjectHealth & social care,Mental health
Experiences of engaging in therapeutic
Lucho Aguilera, Kirk Reed and Josie Goulding
Purpose The purpose of this study is to seek answerto the following question: Does participating in
storytelling changes participants’ life experiences in their journey of recovery? The study explores
participants’experiences of engaging in a storytellingprogramme in a community mental health team in a
large New Zealand city. The programme aims to provide a safe environment to support and increase
participants’ engagement with services and the community. Currently, there is limited literature on
consumer’s experiencesof engaging in therapeutic storytelling programmesin the international or New
Design/methodology/approach Following ethicalapproval, eight adult participants were recruited to
the study. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and analysed using the six-phase
processof thematic analysis, developed byBraun and Clarke.
Findings Three mainthemes emerged from the data. The first theme, breakingbarriers, was described
by participants as to how they overcame barriers. The second theme, creating positive memories,
uncovered the positive experiences that participants gained from the programme. The final theme,
becoming a new person, described some of the transformative experiences that emerged through
participationin the programme.
Originality/value This is the first qualitative study in the New Zealand context that has explored the
value of a storytellingprogramme from a consumer’s perspective.The findings suggest thatparticipating
in a storytelling programme can contribute to a participant’s journey of recovery; the use of myths,
legends and groupwork is fundamental to those from collective cultureswith oral traditions. The ongoing
value of storytelling as a therapeutic tool requires further research and the development of a clearer
evidencebase to inform practice.
Keywords Storytelling, Consumer participation, Mental health recovery, Qualitative descriptive,
Qualitative descriptive research
Paper type Research paper
Historical changes in New Zealand’s mental health sector were strongly influenced by the
recommendations of the 1961 Joint Commission for Mental Illness and Health that advocated
for community alternatives to hospital-based services (Berks, 2003). By the late 1990s, New
Zealand had fully implemented a de-institutionalisation proces s (Berks, 2003). Different
community services were created to prevent admissions to institutions by fin ding and
developing supports; alongside these changes, mental health services st arted to incorporate
the recovery approach into service delivery. Recovery principles are identified by Curtis et al.
(2002), as recovering rights, roles, responsibilities, decisions, potential a nd supports.
Recovery is a process, not a place, and is used to facilitate and promote opportunities and
safe environments where people who live with mental distress can be empowered to have
positive experiences and develop understandings about their illness, strengths and recove ry.
In general, the main intervention used with people who live with mental distress is
medication. However, there are confusing results regarding the long-term efficacy of
Lucho Aguilera is based at
the Department of Mental
Health Service, Counties
Manukau District Health
Board, Auckland,
New Zealand. Kirk Reed is
based at the Department of
Occupational Science and
Therapy, Auckland
University of Technology,
Auckland, New Zealand.
Josie Goulding is based at
the Department of
Psychotherapy, Auckland
University of Technology,
Auckland, New Zealand.
Received 19 November 2018
Revised 6 January 2020
8 January 2020
Accepted 8 January 2020
DOI 10.1108/MHRJ-11-2018-0036 VOL. 25 NO. 1 2020, pp. 47-61, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1361-9322 jMENTAL HEALTH REVIEW JOURNAL jPAGE 47

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