Meet Eleanor, your peer support worker.
She has lived experience with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder II, ED-NOS, C-PTSD) and has been in symptom-free recovery since 2010. Eleanor has a lifetime of experience in the arts, particularly the narrative arts (writing, storytelling), with a B.A. in English Language & Literature and Visual Arts and a postgraduate degree in Publishing. She also has Peer Support and Suicide Alertness training alongside 20 years in the mental health branch of the non-profit sector with volunteer hours in client intake and programming at Hope’s Garden, Sheena’s Place, the Mental Health Support Network, and on the warm line and facilitating groups at the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. With work at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, where she co-facilitated Graphic Novel Storytelling: The Art of Comics with Penguin author Willow Dawson, she has been practicing professional peer support for 5 years now.
In 2017, Eleanor co-facilitated an ongoing men’s issues group and a Bipolar support group for community agencies, in addition to delivering Writing for Wellness twice over at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. In 2018, she began as a contributing writer for TheMindfulWord.org. She is a proponent of patient-driven psychoeducation and advocacy, and holistic client-centred approaches to mental health treatment and recovery. In offering peer support services, she borrows elements of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Existential Therapy but predominantly comes from a narrative-based approach.
Narrative Therapy is like Art Therapy but with words. The focus of the approach is on the manner in which individuals construct meaning rather than the way they behave. In philosophy and in neuroscience the “I”/eye or the mind is what they call “the narrative centre of self.” Your mind is constantly generating the story of who you are to yourself and others. Narrative Therapy seeks to address minds that may be telling themselves problem-saturated narratives e.g. The Trauma Narrative — “I experienced trauma; therefore, I am damaged goods.”
It is a post-modern, talk therapy model (typically one-on-one rather than done in group), developed by social workers Michael White and David Epston in the 70s and 80s, that focuses on social construction (concept: language doesn’t describe reality, it defines it), meaning making through language and relationships, and broader social and political discourses, all whilst considering multiple vantage points and Sparkling Moments or Unique Outcomes e.g. The Survive to Thrive Narrative — “I experienced trauma, I survived, and I aim to thrive.”
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
To put this modality to work in a group context, Eleanor has developed a meta-narrative technique – a writing course, Writing for Wellness, meant to address the 5 main principles:
• shared and transformative experience
• naming and unpacking (assessment and intervention)
• meaning making
• listening and experience gathering
and 5 intended outcomes of Narrative Therapy:
• increased self-awareness (you are the expert in your own story)
• increased self-compassion
• externalizing problems
• constructing preferred identities
• developing courses of action
The goal is to deconstruct, rewrite, and reconstruct the narratives we tell ourselves in a way that helps us actualize positive change.
*Please note, the writing course is optional.
For more: My Story, Mission, Vision & Values, Coaching vs. Psychotherapy, Mechanics, Mood Disorders, Recovery