Storytelling is an age-old practice used to pass down cultural traditions and values, important life lessons, and history. People are influenced greatly by characters they identify with, whether it be the storyteller or story characters, and can not only learn a great deal, but also be inspired by these characters; inspired to explore their world, explore their own gifts, and to do so courageously.
There is undoubtedly a therapeutic element to storytelling. And, as this art evolved into the written form, so did opportunities for deeper inner reflection and self expression in a safe space, by extension of the pen.
The general consensus amongst professionals in mental health and wellness is that feelings are important, as they evolved in humans for the purpose of alerting us to everyday threats to our survival and motivates us to take action accordingly. They also help promote emotional attachment, social interaction and support our personal growth. However, when persisting negative emotions and experiences are left unchecked, they can have dramatic effects on our behavior, and our health.
To this day, it is difficult for many adults to verbally express how they feel and why they feel a certain way, let alone children, entrapping harmful emotional patterns and responses. Fortunately, there are many different forms of therapy available today to help unpack and process the heavy burdens we carry, including play therapy.
According to Dr. J. P. Schoeman (2009), bibliotherapy (or biblio play) is just one of the creative forms of play therapy, which includes the written word in letters, stories, songs, lyrics or poems that are therapeutic in nature. Expressing themselves through stories may let children feel more comfortable to sift through and release stressful, scary or confusing experiences in their world, when the need arises. This practice also offers children the opportunity to “experiment” with possibilities and solutions, explore alternatives and accept responsibility, without making themselves vulnerable.
Furthermore, biblio play allows children to not only connect with the character they’ve created or read about, but also experience an emotional response about the character, project their feelings onto them, and lead them to enlightenment about their own situation. This, in turn, returns control to the child by handing them the reins to their experience, guiding them along the path of inner healing and empowerment.
So, what if we, as parents, educators and adults, explore a little more? Who would be our lead character, earthly or other? How do they overcome the obstacles they’re faced with? Let’s collect our quills (or keyboards) and help our own inner heroes rise up through the art of writing. We deserve it. Our children deserve it.
Schoeman, J.P. (2009). Play Therapy. An Important Skill in Child Therapy. A Learning Experience That Will Add Value. Unpublished.