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Monday, February 10, 2020

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling

Storytelling has become a popular activity at many venues in New York City as well as around the world.  Not only is it popular, it's also a powerful form of communication since ancient times, and there are many psychological benefits to telling and listening to stories.

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling

The Psychological Benefits of Storytelling
  • We are hardwired for storytelling.  We tend to think in terms of stories, and it's how we make meaning of our lives. 
  • Listening to a story engages the imagination, and the brain processes the images and emotional experiences related to the story in the same way as it processes "real life" lived experiences.
  • Whether the stories are about ancient myths, archetypes, relationships, overcoming adversity, or personal transformation, to name only a few storytelling topics, storytelling has a psychologically integrative function for the individual telling the story as well as for the listener.  
  • Storytelling engages on an emotional level in a collaborative way as the storyteller makes him/herself emotionally vulnerable by telling a personally meaningful story. As the audience listens to the story, they often open up in an empathetic way to the storyteller and the story. 
  • In developing and narrating the story, the storyteller discovers psychological connections from the past to the present and from one part of the self to other aspects of the self. 
  • Storytelling helps to connect us in universal ways as the listener identifies with the storyteller and discovers aspects of him/herself in the story.  A personally meaningful story often transcends the boundaries of race, gender, age and other identities that often divide people.
  • From an early age, most people are raised on stories. Young children love stories and they will often ask to hear the same story over and over again because it's soothing. Adults also find stories to be emotionally engaging.  There is also something soothing about anticipating and experiencing the structure of a story with a beginning, middle and an end. The audience anticipates that there will be an arc to the story with a resolution at the end, which is so comforting and satisfying to the mind.

Storytelling and the Moth
The Moth, a nonprofit group based in New York City, was founded in 1997 and it's dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling.  Currently, the Moth hosts storytelling events all over the United States and the world.  

The poet and novelist, George Dawes Green, and the original Moth storytellers wanted to recreate the atmosphere of telling and listening to stories on the porch where moths buzzed around in the evening light.  They began by calling themselves "the moths" and the organization has grown substantially from its origins more than 20 years ago.

In 2009, the Moth began a popular and critically acclaimed podcast and established a national public radio show. 

Since its inception, thousands of people have told their personal stories at the Moth all over the world.

My Storytelling Experiences
I came to the storytelling experience through improvisation.  If anyone had told me, even just a few years ago, that I would be involved in improv or storytelling, I would have been shocked.  

But when a trainer told me about his experiences with improvisation and on the same day I received an email from my professional social work listserv about Applied Improvisation as it relates to clinical social work, I was more than just a little curious about the timing of this interesting synchronicity.

As a psychotherapist for over 20 years, I listen to many clients' stories and, when I think it's clinically appropriate, I also tell them stories that I think would be helpful to their process.

Applied improvisation has helped me to improve my therapeutic skills with clients.  It has also enhanced my creativity.  And aside from these great benefits, improv and storytelling are fun!  

How You Can Get Involved With Storytelling
There is an art and a craft to storytelling that you can learn.  

If you live in New York City, there are many schools and individual storytellers that teach storytelling.

The Magnet* is a school in New York City where you can learn improv and/or storytelling in a collaborative and supportive environment.  

Being in a classroom where other people are developing their storytelling skills and presenting stories about their transformative experiences has been one of the most moving experiences for me.

Over time, the students in the class develop trusting relationships with each other, which is fostered by the instructor, in order to be vulnerable enough to tell their stories and get feedback.  

At the conclusion of the storytelling class series, the class puts on a show where each storyteller gets up in front of an audience to tell his or her personal story.

There is an energetic flow between the storytellers and the audience, and this, in itself, is transformative for both the storyteller and the audience.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.



*Disclaimer: I am not on the faculty of the Magnet and I receive no compensation or benefit of any kind from them for mentioning them in this article.

















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