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What is a story stem assessment?

In addition to my play therapy services, I’m also fully trained to deliver story stem assessments. This is a specially developed method of assessing and understanding a child’s attachments to their care givers and siblings, and gaining an insight into any traumatic experiences they’ve had, and what they think and feel about them.

Story stem assessments are particularly suited to younger children, especially those between the ages of 3 and 7 years, but suitability can vary on a case-by-case basis, depending on the child’s individual stage of development.

How does a story stem assessment work?

During the assessment, the child is given a series of narrative story stems, which are explained by a trained practitioner. The practitioner starts a story with a specific familial, social or emotional dilemma, and then using a selection of dolls, animals or figures to represent key people in their life, the child is asked to finish the story, using the dolls to ‘show and tell’.

The session is videoed and transcribed, and the practitioner then uses the information to create a profile of the child. There are 13 different story stems that can be used, and the child’s responses are ‘scored’ by using extensive comparison data that’s been gathered from children across both mal-treated and stable, secure backgrounds.

The assessor’s training enables them to ensure that observations are genuinely and reliably comparable, to ensure an accurate profile is created.

Benefits of a story stem assessment profile

This process is a great way to discover what a child is really thinking about their experiences and relationships, and how they perceive the world, roles and people around them.

Using role-playing ensures that the child has a platform to communicate that feels natural to them, and is much less intrusive than challenging them with direct and often difficult questions, which they may find hard to put into context or feel embarrassed or anxious about answering.

The stories that develop from the narrative stems are neither true ‘creative play’ nor accurate descriptions of actual experiences, but instead reveal the way the child relates to their closest family members and the attachments and models they’ve built regarding these relationships. Story stem assessments help us to achieve a much clearer understanding of the child’s behaviour, emotions and thought processes.

If you’d like to learn more about how a story stem assessment profile could help your child, or if you require further information about how the process works, please call me on 0330 900 0080 and I’ll be happy to help.

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