Tree of Life: A workshop methodology for children, young people and adults

May 9, 2017
Organization: REPSSI, Catholic Relief Services

The Tree of Life is a psychosocial support tool based on narrative practices. It uses different parts of a tree as metaphors to represent the different aspects of our lives. It involves people drawing their own ‘Tree of Life’ in which they get to speak of their ‘roots’ (where they come from), their skills and knowledge, their hopes and dreams, and the special people in their lives. The participants then join their trees into a ‘forest of life’ and, in groups, discuss some of the ‘storms’ that affect their lives and ways that they respond to these storms, protect themselves, and each other. The use of metaphors and carefully formulated questions invites participants to tell stories about their lives in ways that make them stronger and more hopeful about the future.

While it was not designed for catharsis or as a bereavement tool, the Tree of Life opens up space to facilitate conversations about hardship, bereavement and loss. The Tree of Life experience allows children and adults who are severely affected by disease, poverty, violence and conflict to tell, hear, and explore stories of loss without remaining trapped in expressions of negativity or grief. It simultaneously opens up spaces and opportunities to tell, hear and explore stories of hope, shared values and connection to those around them as well as to those who have died.