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Therapeutic Life Story work

Arwen78 January 17, 2023 20:35

Hiya - I haven’t posted here for a long time but looking for some advice.

having waited a long time, due to Covid, securing funding via ASF etc, I am finally doing some therapeutic life story work with a therapist sourced by the county council with our girls aged 14 and 12.

We are now half way through and neither me or the children are feeling good about it. The therapist is the most inflexible person I’ve ever met : can we remove our (well behaved) dog from the room, can we avoid cancelling any sessions (I haven’t - there were just a couple of dates I couldn’t make due to work commitments but these were notified well in advance), can we make ourselves available in half term. The list of requests goes on with no understanding that I am balancing a number of things. I would also add that when she had a flat tyre at our house, my husband repaired it in the pouring rain and when she was an hour and a half late I was super understanding.

anyway, all the above makes me feel quite uncomfortable but additionally her sessions don’t seem to be very good. She makes my children who struggle a bit with literacy copy down lots of writing or write down long answers to questions. She doesn’t engage them and they are clearly bored and disengaged. She doesn’t ask any questions and always takes their answer at face value with no probing or facilitation. For example today she made them copy out a family tree with minimal explanation of who everyone was or how they fitted in. She repeatedly checks her watch and we often just end up writing out things in silence. I have tried facilitating a bit but she criticised me once saying “the work needs to come from DD1” - I wasn’t saying that it didn’t but my daughter clearly hadn’t understood something. Today my daughter looked to me for help with something and the therapist told her that when she went quiet and looked at me it made her uncomfortable. Never mind that my daughter was obviously extremely uncomfortable herself (as was I, because the sessions are so awkward)

We’re half way through the sessions now and they just seem to get worse. I don’t know whether to raise my concerns with the council (who aren’t very responsive), whether to carry on with the sessions but keep in mind that I will probably need to go back over lots of stuff so that we can discuss it properly or whether to ditch it and buy a book and facilitate it myself or perhaps pay for it to be done directly from another provider.

Am I expecting too much - surely this isn’t what a therapist working with a family should look like?

Does anyone else have experience of good therapeutic life story work and was this has been like?

thanks in advance for any advice/thoughts

chestnuttree January 17, 2023 23:58

The sessions won't be helpful if you or your child feel uncomfortable. And what is the point in copying family trees? In silence? Also, this is not about how the therapist feels. They sound highly unprofessional. Our sessions are the complete opposite of yours: Lots of talking and I lead a lot, because I know what is going on. The therapist is happy with that and so is my daughter, who often does not know what she feels. I don't think my daughter's sessions are great life story work as such, but they are helpful in other respects and at the end of the day, it needs to be helpful for your child. If it isn't, then it is just a waste of funds. Funds that could be used for something this is helpful. I would stop the sessions, find another therapist and reapply. And I would tell the council honestly about your experiences with this therapist.

Arwen78 January 18, 2023 07:21

Thank you - we did start work with another therapist which was very different but it got paused due to Covid and in the meantime we got moved to our local LEA.

my daughter also doesn’t know how she feels but the therapist doesn’t make me feel comfortable to help out. I was trying to explain the difference between Hope and joy and got criticised.

I think I will call the LA and raise my concerns as had similar advice from an adopter friend of mine.

Thanks so much for responding

Donatella January 18, 2023 10:59

It sounds pretty horrendous, not to mention being ultimately unproductive.

My daughter had 9 months of therapeutic lifestory work at around 12. The therapist, who I’d chosen and asked LA to fund, used the Richard Rose method which involved talking, with me supporting my daughter, and lots of visuals. A lengthy roll of paper so most of the work we did was drawing. At the end a new detailed lifestory book was produced.

Therapist was happy to go at my daughter’s pace until she felt comfortable.

Your experience doesn’t sound like a positive one so I’d stop it and complain.

Arwen78 January 18, 2023 12:47

Thanks Donatella- we are alledgedly following Richard Rose method and we do have the roll of paper.

however the facilitation is very poor and just seems to consist of the therapist reading stuff out I.e names from a family tree and getting DD1 to write them down with no/minimal explanation of anything. DD1 is bored, frustrated and confused and when she told her off for going quiet and checking in with me, it was the final straw. She also brings no energy and it feels like she is going through the motions.

I think I will definitely try and contact the LA to discuss.

thanks for sharing your experience which feels very different.

Safia January 18, 2023 13:22

My experience wasn’t very satisfactory either. My daughter was in her 20s and had been with us since the age of 2. We used the roll of paper too which started off really well and my daughter was really engaged but I thought we would then go on to explore her feelings round various aspects - as she was familiar with the facts anyway - but we never did, except for once when she wanted to write a letter to her birth parents which was very powerful. We did a lot of activities which seemed more suited to younger children (<10) and at a much earlier stage of building the relationship which took up a lot of time. She never seemed to have anything planned and it rather seemed as if she was following a list of activities she had in her in her head and filling time with these rather than responding to what was happening in front of her. We were given the roll of paper and various bits done in the session which at the end but I’d heard of people being given a book made up from this and even of someone who was taken out for a meal as the last session which all sounds lovely. The roll of paper is in the cupboard and never looked at as a book might be. What was obvious to me was how little of her life story involved her birth parents - though this obviously had a very significant impact - again something worth exploring. My daughter starting missing sessions and this was never explored either - it felt to me as if she was getting paid so didn’t care. She even missed the last session and this was just left too. I would definitely try to get it changed as it doesn’t seem as if it’s working for any of you but just going through the motions which isn’t helpful. It might be worth asking to meet with the therapist to talk about how you feel about it and where she is planning on taking it. This money is precious - not easy to get. One reason we took the life story work up was because it seemed to be something that got automatic approval (we had tried other more appropriate services first)

Serrakunda27 January 18, 2023 14:13

This sounds dreadful.

Having had the great man, Richard Rose, himself, as our therapist, our exprience was very different. We ended up with 5 rolls of paper and a book at the end of it.

The first session we had Richard said virtually nothing, just let my son talk, for the next 2 months or so very little was done as he started most of the sessions under the table screaming his head off (my son, not Richard 😉). Richard invested a lot of time in building trust and establishing the relationship - playing on the xbox and talking football and F1 was integral as this was what engaged my boy. Richard was very good at using my son’s interests in activities to develop the work, I was fully involved and developed a way of working with Richard to support my son. We always had breaks over school holidays to give him time to process stuff.

I’m a big fan of Richard, he made a huge difference to our lives. If just by providing a roll of wall paper they think they are following the Richard Rose method I think they are missing the point of it, doesnt send like they are using his method at all.

Whatever method is used those, its all a but pointless if there is no engagement or relationship with the therapist. A friend from another forum with 2 very difficult boys once told me that Richard Rose was the only therapist she had met who connected with her kids but sadly he didnt think he was the right person for them and gave her some recommendations. That seems to be an indicator of a good therapist - someone who won’t just take the money and has the expertise to see whats right for the child.

I’d look eleswhere

Arwen78 January 18, 2023 17:15

That’s absolutely it Serrakunda - there is no relationship whatsoever. She doesn’t talk much to the girls - even if we play a game it is very mundane with no energy from her.

when we started the previous work, the therapist was taking it quite slowly but was building a lovely rapport with DD1 and I felt able to contribute and guide too. DD1 was asking questions and telling the therapist stories. Now we all just sit there stiffly in stony silence because of the horrible atmosphere.

Richard sounds amazing and as you say to acknowledge that you are not the right therapist for somebody says everything.

This just seems to be about going through the motions, getting it done as quickly as possible so that she can take on more families.

I’m definitely not going to continue with it - I hardly slept last night because I was so stressed out by it all and her horrible unfriendly and frankly passive aggressive approach.

I have bought a book and will start to work through some of this with the girls whilst we reapply or whatever and I’ll try to see if we can go back to the therapist we started using before.

Thanks for all your input ils made me feel more sure that continuing is not the right approach

chestnuttree January 18, 2023 18:37

It is really important that children's experiences of therapists are positive, so they seek help later in life, if needed.

Have a look at this book, it is very good:

Life Story Work with Children Who are Fostered or Adopted: Creative Ideas and Activities by Katie Wrench and Lesley Naylor

Arwen78 January 18, 2023 21:01

Thanks Chestnuttree - this is the one I’ve just ordered.

I have requested a call with the LA to discuss my concerns.

Arwen78 January 22, 2023 23:04

I raised my concerns with the LA and they were very supportive and I think a bit horrified- although of course they had to remain professional.

They encouraged me to ask for a review meeting rather than just ending it to try and bring about an appropriate ending. I spent ages writing what I thought was a polite and constructive email requesting the review. This request has been declined and the worker has stated that she is terminating the work.

the fact that she wouldn’t have a conversation tells me a great deal - although frankly I’m a bit relieved.

it does mean that it’s all left a bit in limbo though and I feel I will have to try and facilitate something myself at least in the interim.

thanks for all the advice and stories that you shared with me, I appreciate it !


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