Therapeutic (or healing) storytelling is a relatively new field of study that has roots in an expressive therapy called Bibliotherapy.



Bibliotherapy is an expressive therapy that involves the reading of specific texts, short stories or full length novels (fiction and non-fiction) with the purpose of healing. It uses an individual's relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy.   The literal Greek meaning of the term bibliotherapy is ‘book healing’. 



A therapeutic (healing) story is a pedagogical strategy which uses metaphor and story as an indirect tool for regulation of behaviour and helping with trauma through individual and group work (with children, teens and adults).

As medicine is used to help restore wholeness or balance to out-of-balance physical conditions, story medicine (therapeutic or healing stories) can be an imaginative and effective strategy for helping shift out-of-balance behaviour back towards wholeness or balance. Therapeutic storytelling is a subtle yet often effective means of addressing challenging and traumatic situations and topics. 

Working with a specific selection of metaphors chosen for the specific behaviour or situation, the story form offers a healing medium that allows the listener to embark on an imaginative journey, rather than being lectured or directly addressed about the issue.  By identifying with the main character or characters, the child/teen/adult is empowered as obstacles are overcome and a resolution achieved.

A therapeutic story has the potential to shift an out of balance behaviour or situation back towards wholeness or balance. The story may heal, help a lot, help a little, strengthen resolve, and/or sow invaluable seeds for future change. A therapeutic story approach with children and young people is an invaluable tool for therapists, parents and teachers – it offers story medicine as a creative strategy for life’s daily challenges.



See ‘what is a Therapeutic Story’



In simple terms, a metaphor shows us one thing as another, and in doing so extends the way we see the world, also often refreshing and enlivening our perception. In written and oral language, using the medium of picture imagery, metaphor speaks directly to our imaginative faculties, bypassing our rational brain. Such metaphoric byways and pathways enable us to explore the ideas, forces, and powers that lie behind or beyond our rational thought.  For this reason metaphor has long been the language of mystics, spiritual teachers, poets and other expressive artists.



Metaphor is a form of communication in the story genre in which an expression is taken from one field of experience and used to say something about another field of experience. To describe a bully as being as angry as a bear with a sore paw does not mean the bully and the bear are literally alike but that the description, phrase, or story about the bear and its demeanour communicates an imaginative image of the bully and his or her behaviour. It is this symbolic association that gives their literary and therapeutic potency.

A vital ingredient in therapeutic story making, metaphors help to form imaginative connections that draw in and ‘enchant’ the listener. As integral parts of the story journey, they often play both negative roles- obstacles, hindrances and tempters or temptations that help to pull a behaviour or situation out of balance - and positive roles - helpers or guides that bring the behaviour/situation back into wholeness or balance

Integrated into storytelling, metaphors can, as in spiritual writings and poetry, take on a mystery and magic that are sometimes subtle, sometimes powerfully medicinal. The metaphors seem to come alive and gain energy from each other in a vibrant and exciting dance, and through this process they have the possibility of producing potent story medicine



In writing a therapeutic (healing) story it helps to carefully select therapeutic metaphors and to construct a journey or quest to meet the need of the situation and the age of the child / teenager / adult. The story is not intended to moralise or to induce guilt – this point cannot be stressed enough! The objective is to simply reflect what is happening and, through the story ‘metaphors’ and ‘journey’, provide an acceptable means of dealing with the behaviour and a positive resolution.

(note: this question is difficult to answer in a short paragraph – I have many pages of theory in my first two print books that give guidance and tips/techniques for therapeutic story writing - I also offer seminars to help teach/guide therapeutic story writing)