Oliver Queen and the deserted island: Using narrative therapy to address the experience of trauma

Target Population: Most appropriate for adolescents and adults; however, material may be adapted for all ages. Activity is based on the experience of trauma; thus, it may be most appropriate for individuals who have experienced trauma in some capacity.

Materials Needed:

Pen and paper (optional)


Introduction: Oliver Queen was stranded on a deserted island, and this traumatic experience transformed him. Upon his return to Starling City, he struggles to tell his story; however, he is eventually able to share his story and uses this traumatic experience to help others.

Similar to Oliver Queen’s traumatic experience, have clients recall traumatic experience(s) within their lives. Have your clients write down their stories (optional) and share them with others.

Discuss the meaning that clients make of these stories. Do they externalize or internalize these experiences? If they internalize these experiences, it may be helpful to externalize circumstances in order for the clients to not direct anger towards themselves.

It might be helpful to also process how clients’ might use these stories to empower themselves. In other words, how might they use these stories in another way? For example, Oliver uses his skills he learned on the desert island to help save others lives.

Rationale, Expected Results, and Troubleshooting
Kayma (2012) stated that for many survivors of trauma, a sense of meaning has been lost, and daring to hope again feels like the riskiest of endeavors. Narrative techniques offer people opportunities to see themselves as separate from the trauma problems that bind them and to be hopeful about managing these problems. Narrative therapy can help a person to understand their own life and empower them with agency for addressing problems in future scenarios. In general, narrative interventions encourage individuals, communities, and groups to become authors of their own stories. When working through trauma, narrative interventions will hopefully help the individual to uncover the fact that no one trauma narrative exists. Narrative practices of promoting the creation and choice of preferred stories, local knowledge, and subjective and collective realities.

It is to be expected that some clients will have difficulty talking about their trauma and using language for the experience. One possible troubleshooting area is working with clients who might consider themselves to be less articulate. If a client does not have mastery of the language or does not feel most comfortable expressing themselves through story, then it would be up to therapist to determine whether narrative therapy would be appropriate. It would also be helpful to determine if a client is having difficulty creating this story whether it is attributed to relieving the anxiety of this experience. If the client is having difficulty find words for the story, it might be beneficial to have the client slowly write pieces of the story in order to not be overwhelmed. Also, it might be helpful to start with a drawing to help the client express the emotions surrounding the event, and from the art piece created, the therapist can help the client find the words he/she might need to describe their experience (Hecker, 2010).

Another possible troubleshooting area is that clients might feel unable to live up to Oliver Queen’s triumph of finding meaning and using his story to help others. It might be a daunting task for someone to face in the beginning. It should be the therapist’s role to emphasize that the client’s move at their own pace and establish their own goals. It is also important to emphasize that they do not have to save lives or change the world but that he/she might be able to transform this negative experience into a positive one. By being able to transform this experience, resiliency can be built, and safety and trust can be reestablished (Kagan, 2009).

Hecker, L., Lettenberger, C., Nedela, M., & Soloski, K. L. (2010). The Body Tells the Story: Using Art to Facilitate Children’s Narratives. Journal Of Creativity In Mental Health, 5(2), 192-203. doi:10.1080/15401383.2010.485104

Kagan, R. (2009). Transforming Troubled Children into Tomorrow’s Heroes; Application of an Evidence-Supported Trauma Therapy in Child Welfare. International Society For The Study Of Trauma And Dissociation 26Th Annual Conference, November 21-23, 2009, Washington, DC: Pathway To Integration [Abstract], 36-37. doi:10.1037/e608902012-081

Kamya, H. (2012). The cultural universality of narrative techniques in the creation of meaning. In R. A. McMackin, E. Newman, J. M. Fogler, T. M. Keane, R. A. McMackin, E. Newman, T.M. Keane (Eds.) , Trauma therapy in context: The science and craft of evidence-based practice (pp. 231-245). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Originally posted on the Geek Therapy Wiki, hosted on the now-defunct Wikispaces platform, as part of Dr. Patrick O’Connor’s course Geek Culture in Therapy.

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