The Life Story Board Process

Using the Life Story Board

The Life Story Board™ Toolkit includes Element sets for many dimensions of experience: relationships; events; activities; health; family, cultural, and environmental influences; as well as feelings, questions, dreams, problems, goals, risks and resources.

With this robust set of components, the Life Story Board™  is capable of depicting complex narratives.

However, it’s also effective with only a subset of the magnets used in a session; for example, to portray the important people in the Storyteller’s life, and the nature of their interactions.

The Guide chooses which elements to use in a session based on factors like the client’s age, the setting and intention of the session, therapeutic modality, and personal style.

Elements can be introduced in a methodical directive way, or more spontaneously in response to the narrative as it unfolds.



Session Focus

The specific focus of a session will be determined by the application, setting, and needs being addressed.  There many possible lines of inquiry, such as to:


  • Gather important information about the client’s current circumstances
  • Depict all the major players in a situation, and the significant actions and relationship dynamics between them
  • Address a crisis or specific question
  • Witness and record the Storyteller’s unique personal narrative
  • Reflect patterns and prevalence of themes such as relocation, health issues, and particular behaviours or experiences –  within a family, peer group, or larger community
  • Track correlations between outer experiences and inner feelings
  • Explore effects of cultural experiences, practices, rules, beliefs
  • Identify the Storyteller’s risks and resources
  • Map out a route from present reality to future goals
  • Consider personal development or legacy questions such as life myth, values, aspirations, achievements, most significant experiences



Important Qualities of the Life Story Board Process

Sitting side by side creates a respectful collaborative atmosphere, with shared focus on the story taking shape on the board.

The client owns their story and can tell it from their perspective, perhaps for the first time. They can include what is meaningful to them, and don’t have to fit themselves into a predetermined format.

The process allows stories to unfold in a natural, organic style that gradually adds pieces to the puzzle while holding space for what has not yet been revealed.

The Storyteller knows they can always circle back to something as their comfort level and sense of ownership of their lifescape grows. For example, well into the session they may add cards for deceased people that they didn’t mention initially, or say more about the content behind a Secret Card placed earlier.

The ‘Blank Access’ nature of the markers allows the Storyteller to use their own vernacular and symbology, for example, “He used me as a wife” to speak of rape.


Guide Sheets

The Toolkit includes Guide Sheets, with pictures and descriptors for many of the LSB Elements. The therapist and client can look at them together to choose relevant markers to add to the storyboard.

Guide Sheets are designed to serve several functions. They may:

  • Increase comfort and promote disclosure by ‘normalizing’ many difficult things – the client can point to something already written down, rather than having to initiate introducing it into the conversation
  • Help develop emotional literacy
  • Remind the client of something important they would have forgotten to mention
  • Identify and include significant absences, such as certain relationships, resources, etc. which may otherwise simply get left out



Some Key Benefits of the Life Story Board Process

  • Facilitates telling difficult stories with built-in aids to comfort, safety and sense of control
  • Enables people to describe their life from their perspective with their own meanings ascribed; be witnessed; and have a picture they can keep and reflect upon
  • Includes often disregarded or unspoken influential factors that an individual is ‘swimming in’, such as cultural mores, history, or belief systems
  • Represents what ‘is not’ in a life, as well as what ‘is’
  • Portrays different chapters of a life superimposed in one view, revealing what has changed and what is constant
  • Creates an overview of the Storyteller’s life that very often inspires a greater self understanding and appreciation

“For 18 years as a family therapist, I have used the genogram, which works well in providing assessment information and diagnostic impressions. However, I find that the Life Story Board is a far superior tool, because the storyboard process is much more engaging for the client, allowing them a rich experience at the same time as providing the therapist with the needed information.”

– Sage Emery LMFT, Eugene Oregon


To view a slideshow of completed LSB lifescapes, with descriptions of the session’s focus, click here.