Thursday, January 15, 2015

Exploring the therapeutic value of stories: Kim Billington, Narrative Therapist 2015

You can entertain, heal and inform with story. Kim Billington's work and research is around the potential of stories for inner renewal and healing.

Kim joined The Storytelling Guild (Vic) in 1992. At the time she was doing a BEd Thesis on Storytelling in the Curriculum. During the 90s, the storytellers gathered for regular conferences, and it was at a weekend away in Lorne where Kim first enjoyed hearing people tell stories to adults.  An experience that was transformative.

Last year Kim rejoined the storytelling community that is now known as Storytelling Australia Victoria, "I wanted to reconnect with storytellers."

Kim’s professional journey began in education as a State and Steiner-trained teacher, "I told stories mainly in the classroom, as a Steiner teacher; stories are a big part of the method of bringing information to the children, engaging their interest and bringing wonder and joy. Later I completed a Grad Cert in Narrative Therapy at Bouverie in Melbourne, and now I’m completing a Masters of Narrative at Melbourne Uni."

What is Narrative Therapy?
"In a nutshell, Narrative Therapy is a practice developed in the 70s and 80s by Michael White and David Epston (social workers and family therapists). It’s about acknowledging the ‘problem story’ by hearing and then listening for ‘alternative story-threads’ about the person’s values and hopes that ‘the problem’ has not been able to destroy. It’s about getting curious about ‘the absent, but implied’ stories of courage or determination. It’s being with the person as they get to ‘re-author’ their story."

"In the 80s, I read Bruno Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment’ and later, I read a book called The Heroic Client as part of a Masters of Counselling course, and the title got me thinking. So, I began to bring my love of story into counselling and talk about the heroic journey with clients, and slowly I started researching it. I admire the recent work of Native American Indian psychiatrist Lewis Mel-Medrona and Marie-Louise von Franz’s Jungian studies from the 1930s. Rob Parkinson’s book, ‘Transforming Tales’ gave me lots of confidence. I also must acknowledge Joseph Campbell's work 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces'."

What makes a good listener?
"When a storytelling therapist has made a connection to a story, their own imagination brings that story to life. In the shared, sacred space, the listener is drawn-to, and tunes-into the resurrected life of the story, regardless of content. 
In ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ Lewis Carroll said the listener receives the story as a ‘love gift’."

You use folk and fairy tales. Are there inherent dangers in using old stories?
"Fairy tales have an ‘ordinary’ hero, often not named. The stories are mostly optimistic - promoting hope and promising a happy solution for the hero who has struggled. As the listener identifies with the hero, they can experience an ‘inner renewal’. Fairy tale heroes have inner and outer conflicts that are very human, pointing to human nature and identity development through symbol and metaphor. 

Myths on the other hand, have unique, named central characters who are more super-heroes, almost god-like, and there are many tragic endings. Listeners always feel slightly inferior to mythic heroes.

Some fairy tales are well suited to older people; the work of Allan Chinen would be useful for people who particularly want to address the developmental needs of middle and older-aged clients.

* Kim is looking for listeners to help with her research
Kim is currently working on researching the therapeutic value of stories – Master of Narrative Therapy at Melbourne University. She is keen to meet people who are willing to listen to a ten-minute story, and a month later be sent ten questions about the ‘story-echo and reverberations’ around how the story might have changed one’s response to problems or stimulated identity reflection and renewal.  If you would like to be part this research please contact Kim. She is happy to work over Skype or phone.

1 comment:

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