[Note: The following is a short extract from a report about using the Tree of Life with African and Carribean men in England. For more information, contact Angela Byrne: firstname.lastname@example.org]
“Roots are the records of man’s journey and of growth in His tree.
Tapestrees displays tell the tales of forefathers in the drama of the day,
documentrees are the equivalent in our contemporary way …”
“… Yet with application and industree and overcoming the
small mindedness of biggertree, we extend our worth beyond the
moneytree: as we elevate our minds to a state of spiritual dignitree”
– Excerpts from a poem by Sylvester Mittee (2009)
The Tree of Life is a tool, model, framework for narrative therapy, developed by an African psychologist (Ncube 2006), originally used in a ‘safe’ group therapy environment for marginalised or traumatised people, safe both emotionally and physically to share and explore each other’s ‘narratives’, or stories. It is a visual model, created from roots to leaves across past and present. Its value in narrative therapy is a primary focus on the person, not illness or symptoms, through creation by the client (owner). It also starts with and supports identification and validation of strengths and abilities, of self and others, as resources for living, to be used to manage the ‘Storms of Life’.
An in-depth description or clinical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Tree of Life as a psychotherapeutic intervention is not attempted here. The effect and impact of Tree of Life is further considered as part of the programme process. More immediate reaction and feedback from participants and facilitators illustrates a positive and galvanising effect from using it as a Talking Therapy ‘taster’.
“fresh insight” Participant
“It was liberating for me … brought back memories of things I wanted to do as a young man” Participant
Using the Tree
“ … made me have another look at the future, though this didn’t have a lasting effect”
“helps us feel we can create things (in a limited way)” Participant
“a true reflection on finding ourselves” Participant
(rather than the ‘conflicting reflection’ of them held by others). One participant made the observation that the Tree of Life concept was “too complex” in that it was never ending.
One facilitator with recent experience of participating in group therapy summed up using the Tree of Life as:
“… an intellectual exercise on one level … spiritual on one level … and on another level … thought-provoking”
Examination of some of the Trees created by participants revealed very personal histories and ‘roots’ and their meaningfulness in their present lives. Religion, spirituality and family are commonly identified as important nourishment.
“It (tree) gave a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning … I didn’t feel like an outcast, like on the ward … I felt like one of the boys.”