Storytelling for health and well being

Alison Ward, Jan Brear

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


Traditionally, NHS hospitals are run on a medical model of care, with an emphasis on titrating medication. However, the tide is turning, and care is becoming more person-centred. The Forest Centre is a purpose built 24 bed unit providing acute mental health assessment and treatment to older adults, including eight specialist dementia beds. Using a person-centred approach, treatment is provided for patients in the early stages of dementia, through to those with more complex needs, in preparation for discharge to either their own home with support, or to an appropriate care provider.

As a dynamic service, staff provide meaningful activities to promote the wellbeing of their patients. A collaboration with the University of Northampton led to a trial of an innovative method of engaging with people with dementia: TimeSlipsTM.

TimeSlipsTM, devised by Anne Basting (1998),is a storytelling method using photographic images as a vehicle to create an imaginative story using a series of open questions. Rather than the pressure of using memory, participants are encouraged to contribute to the development of a story evoked from the picture.

Weekly sessions are run, lasting approximately 30 minutes. The group comprises patients diagnosed with dementia, the group size varying from two to ten. Everyone’s contribution is recorded verbatim, however obscure, creating a colourful tapestry of words. The story is regularly re-told, with the final story typed and distributed to patients, staff and families to share and enjoy.

Observations demonstrate that patients take pride in their involvement in the storytelling process, sharing stories with their visitors. Often the patient will be surprised at their own creativity, despite initially believing they could not tell stories. There is a feeling of ownership, of something quite special: no longer a patient, but a co-author. Staff look forward to reading the latest edition. Through the story, a glimpse is seen of the person behind the condition, often containing intelligent observation, humour, a morsel from the past, elements of creativity and imagination. It is seen by some as a highlight in the week.

TimeSlipsTM has proven to be an effective intervention and it is now hoped to expand its use into the sister wards and dementia services in the county. It has been a breath of fresh air to find an activity which has so captured the hearts and imaginations of patients and staff alike.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • Storytelling
  • Dementia
  • Mental Health
  • TimeSlips


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