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Therapeutic Life Story Work - Barwon Pilot Preliminary Evaluation

For children and young people in residential or foster care, who have experienced trauma, loss, and grief as a result of abuse may find “their life story is fragmented, discontinuous and characterised by confusion, misconception, blame and shame”.

MacKillop Family Services is committed to addressing these issues through its Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW) program which was recently evaluated by Deakin University.

TLSW, developed by international child trauma expert Richard Rose, is a creative process to help young people in care express in pictures, words or colours their feelings about how the loss of family and home has impacted their life.

Over a nine-month process, an accredited TLSW Clinician reviews case notes and interviews birth family members and other previous carers, before meeting with the young person to creatively record information about their life. Current carers participate with an explicit focus on supporting their recovery and healing from their trauma and loss experiences as well as strengthening their relational bond as their primary caregiver.

The preliminary evaluation report found that TLSW can support the young person to regulate strong negative emotions and choose healthy and pro-social behaviours when they feel unsafe or under threat. With this awareness- for both the young person and their carer- the relationship is strengthened, and a more positive meaningful future is able to be created.

The findings indicate that TLSW enhances the relationship between the young person and their carer and strengthens attachment. It therefore provides a valuable opportunity for the young person to enjoy a sense of safety, comfort and security that may have been previously missing in their lives.


Jones, A. (2017). Project logic – Providing services and support for the provision of therapeutic life story work, in R. Rose (ed.), Innovative Therapeutic Life Story Work: Developing trauma-informed practice for working with children, adolescents and young adults, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.