How Storytelling Can Help Clients With Aphasia

Storytelling is a major part of our lives, even if we don’t necessarily realize it. The stories we tell ourselves often impact the decisions we make, as well as how we view ourselves. And this truth can be leveraged when treating clients with aphasia, especially those struggling to accept their diagnosis and move forward. That’s why our most recent podcast guest, Dr. Katie Strong, PhD, CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor at Central Michigan University’s Department of Communication Sciences runs the Strong Story Lab, helping aphasia clients reform their identities following their trauma.

Based on research and evidence-based practice, the clinicians partaking in the Strong Story Lab co-construct stories with clients that help them rebuild their confidence. For example, Dr. Strong shared a project that involved writing three songs with clients. The first song would be about who that person was prior to their stroke or accident. The second would tell the story of their trauma and developing aphasia. And the third would tackle who they are now, after all is said and done.

Unfortunately, aphasia clients can have difficulty connecting the person they are now with who they once were. They may long to return to a time before aphasia, and this can negatively impact their view of themselves and their relationships with others. 

Pushing aphasia patients to make sense of and give meaning to the huge life change they’ve experienced, however, makes a difference. Not only can this help them accept what’s happened and begin to heal, but it can also help address who they are in the present. And after telling a compelling story about that person, they may just discover they can love them as much as their past self.

The process of using storytelling to help aphasia clients stems from Dr. Strong’s dissertation, the My Story Project. Using psychologist Dan McAdams’ research at a jumping-off point, Dr. Strong identified three aspects of creating a narrative with clients:

  • Social Co-construction
  • Story
  • Identity

These concepts are all tied to one another. Using social co-construction to create a story can help shape an individual’s identity. From there, the goal is to improve that person’s quality of life.

It’s no secret that increased confidence can lead to better relationships with ourselves and others. If crafting a new narrative about oneself can shift the way clients view themselves and their aphasia, it could very well alter the way they live going forward. After all, humans have a need to ascribe meaning to life occurrences. And if that meaning can offer growth, hope, and self-assurance, why wouldn’t we help find it?

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December 15, 2020

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