Skip to main content

Therapeutic Life Story Work - Barwon Pilot Final Evaluation

A world-first evidence-based evaluation of Therapeutic Life Story Work by MacKillop Family Services and Deakin University has described the program as “transformational” in helping children and young people in care to heal from their trauma.

MacKillop is delighted to release findings of a three-year pilot studying the effectiveness of Therapeutic Life Story Work (TLSW) in supporting children and young people in care to make sense of their world and bring greater meaning to their life.

While TLSW has been in practice throughout the world for 30 years, this is the first time the program has been formally evaluated. Researchers from Deakin University in Geelong worked with MacKillop over three-years to investigate the program’s effectiveness in supporting young people in care who have experienced trauma. The evaluation confirms what many national and international studies have hypothesised: TLSW is a powerful tool that supports young people in out of home care (OOHC) to make sense of and create meaning from their trauma and helps to strengthen their emotional and social wellbeing and sense of identity.

Developed by international child trauma expert Richard Rose, TLSW is a creative process to help young people who have experienced trauma express in pictures, words or colours, their feelings about how the loss of family and home has impacted their life. Mr Rose said the report’s release was highly anticipated among TLSW practitioners around the world.

MacKillop is to be congratulated for its commitment to seek an evidence base for Therapeutic Life Story Work and its effectiveness as a healing intervention for young people in care, particularly for those who have experienced significant developmental trauma.

We now know that while recovery for these children is not simple or straightforward, it is always possible.

– Richard Rose

Key evaluation findings showed that TLSW:

  • Enhanced the relationship between the young person and their carer and strengthened their relationship
  • Reduced risk and challenging behaviours
  • Increased social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing.

Educational outcomes were also enhanced among TLSW participants, with teacher feedback highlighting improved attitudes and behaviours to learning and school engagement.

MacKillop wishes to acknowledge our valued partnership with Deakin University Geelong and the generosity of the university’s Department of Social Work and Department of Child Play Therapy in collaborating with MacKillop on this important project. We also wish to acknowledge the generosity of the following philanthropic organisations whose support enabled this important work to be undertaken:

  • The Ross Trust
  • Give Where You Live Foundation
  • Otto and Elizabeth Schumacher Trust, managed by Equity Trustees
  • VCF George Perry Fund, managed by Equity Trustees

*Listen to a discussion about the report findings shared in a podcast with MacKillop Principal Practitioner and pilot lead, Meisha Taumoefolau, Dr James Lucas from Deakin University and Profession Richard Rose (TLSW International)