After months of waiting I read Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, by White and Epston, and discovered that it wasn’t particularly relevant to my research. Mainly because it focuses on individual therapy sessions and I am working with groups. However I liked how White and Epston discussed the importance of imagination. It is through communication of their “story” that individuals are able to externalise thoughts. This begins the process of reforming the meaning around certain events in order to ‘revise their relationship with the problem’ (p63). Verbalising allows recognition that what is causing distress quite often is a miss-match of our story with how things are, or how we would like them to be. A letting go of the need to control others, of expecting others to act in a certain way; an understanding of what we feel, why, and how to process it. These things take time to reshape in the brain.
While my study hopes to examine the changes that occur in adolescent’s emotions as a result of storytelling what I have mainly learnt this week is that coding is complex and time consuming. This is where it is invaluable to have a clear and focused idea from the start; otherwise you end up scrapping a lot of work. I admit there were one or two false starts this week. The outcome is that I’ve accepted the idea that being specific at this stage is a way to allow ideas to expand over time. The words we use to express emotions are very complex. Often a word like frustrated is not used, rather expressed through tone which I have to ignore at this stage of simple word counting. I need to count the words to see patterns that otherwise might be overlooked and later return to a more critical analysis. The transcripts I’m currently examining may inspire new directions once I get my head around using NVivo.
In other news I have been asked to write a guest blog for Youngminds. And Scientific American published an interesting article in issue 23 this month. In Schools add Workouts for Attention, Grit and EmotionalControl, Ingrid Wickelgren discusses the importance of emotional control being taught in schools: ‘Thinking about thinking, known as metacognition, may give kids better control over how they think and feel in ways that could enhance learning.’ It is a very good thing that recognition is being given to teaching positive psychological skills in schools. Although, letting down the side somewhat, Charlie Taylor, the government expect on behaviour, in his April 2012 report on Improving Attendanceat School suggested more focus at a primary level to prevent problems. This seems to be the governments go to area. Sure, I don’t disagree, primary care is very important, but what are you proposing to do about those pupils who are older and need our support? They need us to teach them to engage in life, they need their emotional needs met, and the current system is failing to do this. Especially where one of the suggestions to control truancy places a financial burden on the family by fining parents, how is that going to encourage a positive attitude to school? It could backfire, big time. Of course, I’m biased, but I think storytelling could engage pupils where other methods have failed. Thoughts?