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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

The power of storytelling – OutoftheBox

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Our own Anna Chaplain, and city chaplain for older people in Southampton, Erica Roberts has been extolling the benefits of storytelling in ministry among older people.

Canon Dr Erica Roberts was one of a group of chaplains describing the benefits of using the tool OutoftheBox with people with dementia. The chaplains included Susanne Methven, Penny Thatcher (also based in Hampshire) and Judith Gilbert* (a retired mental health chaplain). They spoke with Kathryn Lord, cofounder of OutoftheBox Training and Stories for the Soul (relational care through story and play for older adults). Kathryn is also a spiritual accompanier and retreat leader. She has a past career as a secondary school teacher and was a trainer for Godly Play®UK for twelve years.

Watch Erica's interview – where she explains that she heads up a team of seven Anna Chaplains in the port city and 'storytelling is at the heart of all that we do.' Last month (June 2022) Erica said 'I had the privilege of interviewing people using OutoftheBox with people living with dementia' in the city.

You might find helpful a summary of the fruits of all the chaplains' discussions taken from their website:

'Some reasons why OutoftheBox is helpful for some people living with dementia: 'Open to all faiths and none – the OutoftheBox Wisdom stories are inclusive – and each person can bring their own faith perspective into their response to the story. (There is also a Christian genre in OutoftheBox which can be used for worship settings).

'Non- verbal – the storytelling uses many non-verbal ways of communicating and people can respond to the story in non-verbal as well as in verbal ways.

'Relational OutoftheBox is all about an atmosphere of people relating to each other in love. People with dementia are very much in touch with how they feel.

'Suitable for carers – groups of people living with dementia and their carers can play with a story together, for example in memory cafés.'

'Some of the adaptations to OutoftheBox that may help those living with dementia to access the stories: 'Exaggerate expressions, such as facial expressions, and perhaps add extra hand gestures to help communicate the story. (If masks need to be worn then expressions using the eyes may need to be exaggerated as well as using more hand gestures).

'Show objects when introducing them (e.g. the people) perhaps by holding them carefully in the palms of your hands and moving your hands in a circle to show them to the group.

'Enlarge some of the story materials (e.g. the stars)

'Sensory stimulation can be increased e.g. include things to smell and pass objects around to touch.

'Repeat the story, perhaps because of interruptions or just to help with the understanding. This is possible with most of the stories because they are short.

'Small groups are preferable.'

'OutoftheBox for carers and staff

'OutoftheBox can be used in the workplace to help people to see things differently and do things differently. It has been used to help carers think about the value and the difficulties of their work and to imagine new ways of being and doing.'

'*Judith Gilbert wrote the chapter "Deep Talk: Finding the Story in our Life" in Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care in Mental Health Settings, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019. OutoftheBox has been inspired by Deep Talk.'




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