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Exploring the research behind Therapeutic Life Story Work

Professor Richard Rose has spent ten years helping practitioners work through childhood developmental trauma. Here, our Learning & Events Officer, Arran Purdie, shares the academic theory behind his important diploma course

When I joined Children in Scotland as a Learning & Events Officer, I was delighted to be given the responsibility of running a Diploma course, Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW), led and developed by Professor Richard Rose.

Professionally, I have a background in teaching and have worked with young people of every age. Part of teaching requires having a holistic view of the students you work with to help them develop a sense of themselves and flourish in whatever activities they may be drawn to.

Childhood developmental trauma can seriously hinder a person’s ability to get to know themselves and explore their identities. When so much of your mental energies go toward hypervigilance due to consistent threat, there is less space for exploration. Personally, I have always been deeply curious about psychology and have spent a significant amount of time learning about trauma and the way it impacts developing minds.

TLSW struck me as a powerful framework for equipping practitioners with the tools they need to support young people who have experienced trauma to learn how to define and understand this aspect of their identities in a safe and supportive way.

Coming from an academic background means that I am also a big fan of research and evidence-based practice. So, while my personal experiences meant that I was already on board with TLSW as an intervention I was even more convinced of its merits when I read a research paper by Deakin University in 2022.

The research that backs up the diploma course

The report, Therapeutic Life Story Work Barwon Pilot Evaluation is full of encouraging findings, however, it is not easy going. Some of the young people involved in the research came from severely traumatic backgrounds. These young people have been and are going through hell and are tasked with the same social norms as anyone else – to get good grades, cooperate with authority figures and peers, socialise in healthy ways, learn new hobbies, and fit in. Nonetheless, the research report finds that TLSW works in the face of these incredible challenges.

Making meaningful change

Many people who come from traumatic backgrounds list a lack of identity and difficulty maintaining social relationships as consequences of their upbringing. TLSW helps them create a new relationship with themselves so that they can create new relationships with others. They had better relationships with carers, teachers, and friends. They learned how to self-regulate and manage their emotions, which curtailed aggressive behaviour. They also showed more interest in their education and increased attendance in classes.

This new mode of operating in the world was provided through the tools taught in the Diploma course. One example is ‘wallpapers’. Each wallpaper is approximately 10-15 metres in length and has image and textual reflections from the children and young people. Effectively, they are rolling documentation of the children and young people’s progress through TLSW, their recovery and identity-building, and are a physical documentation of their voice. By creating this document, a more holistic view of themselves begins to emerge and their sense of self becomes more robust and accurate.

The research paper concludes: “The project’s strength demonstrates that TLSW is an intervention that supports an effective healing opportunity for participants involved in TLSW, regardless of their developmental age and stage.”

How to become a Therapeutic Life Story Work practitioner

Children in Scotland has been partnered with Professor Richard Rose to deliver the diploma in TLSW to practitioners based in Scotland for several years now.

Registration for this year's cohort for the Diploma in Therapeutic Life Story Work is open until Friday 4 August 2023.
Click here for further information about the course

Arran Purdie is a Learning & Events Officer at Children in Scotland.

A longer version of this blog is available in the Children in Scotland Learning Guide - July-December 2023
Click here to access the guide

The Learning Guide: issue 5

Developed to support the children’s sector, the twice-yearly publication highlights Children in Scotland’s upcoming learning opportunities which are designed to strengthen knowledge, improve practice and provide opportunity for reflection and self-care.

In this fifth edition, readers can take a deeper look into the themes covered in Children in Scotland’s upcoming courses: from discovering the importance of emotional dynamics in relationships with Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, and supporting practitioners to deal with childhood development trauma with Professor Richard Rose, to the self-care training journey with therapist and life coach Jan Montgomery.

Alongside these learning opportunities, Children in Scotland also shares new event dates for its Early Years Conference and 30th Anniversary Networking Event, both in November 2023, and its next Annual Conference in May 2024.

Children in Scotland’s Learning Guide is a free digital publication and is available online now.
Click here to access the guide

About the author

Arran Purdie is a Learning & Events Officer at Children in Scotland. Explore the range of learning we offer

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The Learning Guide July-December 2023

Our latest guide includes a range of learning opportunities to meet your needs

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Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW)

A comprehensive course to equip you with the skills, knowledge and experience to undertake TLSW

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The Children in Scotland Podcast

Recent episodes include Richard Rose on TLSW, and a look at how our learning programme is developed

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Building blocks for change

Book now for Children in Scotland's Early Years Conference 2023 - 6 November, Glasgow

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Our membership offer

Be part of the largest national children's sector membership organisation in Scotland

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