Approximately ten years ago, when Toula’s children (aged 12, 10 and 9) were struggling with some issues, Toula thought about storytelling’s influence.
While on a family camping holiday, she wrote stories about the issues they were facing, but one step removed. She had a particular character experience the same problem as her child, but guided by a (Jungian) wise-sage character. As they read about the characters and discussed them, Toula hoped her children would learn the characters’ positive ways of coping.
The protagonists in her stories were animals named after her sons and daughter. As they ventured on their heroic quest, each character learned to resolve their problems by listening to the wise sage.
To reinforce the stories’ key messages, Toula created accompanying images, scribbled on a piece of paper around a campfire.
Future stories and images would also contain elements from myth and legend her children could relate to: talking animals, dragons, vampires and paladins, the natural world and symbols that surrounded them.
The development of the ‘tools’
Toula’s children said they found the stories and images helpful. To help them learn more life-skills, Toula continued writing stories. She wrote twelve stories in total. They were well received by her children.
Employing what Toula calls ‘First person Jungian Action Research’, Toula began using these tools with her young students and clients. She again received excellent feedback and results.
Around the same time, Toula conducted doctoral research in ways technology can help young people become more resilient. One of the key messages from her qualitative research was young people use stories and images (online and offline) to cope with their problems. Most of these stories and images (*65%) were mythic heroic fantasy or science fiction stories.
Based on her doctoral results and feedback, Toula withdrew from the PhD and enrolled in a Doctor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing). She researched ways in which stories could be written to deliver helpful mental health messages to young people.
Talk to Teens evolved from a desire to encourage parents, teachers and counsellors to talk with teens & preteens through ancient and modern stories and images.