The human ability to tell stories is perhaps our most important characteristic. As Mary Catherine Bateson said: “The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.” Stories allow us to share understandings, emotions and motivations. They allow us to cooperate on a scale no other animal can – through shared stories about nations or human rights or the importance of science or god or whatever else we think important. 

This week is Story Telling Week, and we wanted to celebrate it by recognising great stories about social work and the types of issues we work with. Stories allow us to be, at least for a while, in the place of someone experiencing terrible or transformative things. This can help us develop understanding and empathy – core things we need to be social workers. 

My favourite TV series of all time is In My Skin. Written by Kayleigh Llewellyn and superbly acted by Gabrielle Creevy and Jo Hartley in particular, it tells the story of Bethan, a teenager growing up in Cardiff in a family with some serious difficulties. What I loved about In My Skin is that it takes an unflinching look at some very tough problems, but that it also celebrates resilience and the importance of connection. And it is very funny. I genuinely went from laughing to crying in moments. 

In My Skin is based on Kayleigh’s own experiences. I was therefore delighted and a bit awed to have the opportunity to talk to her about In My Skin, her life and some implications for people working with children and families. Kayleigh provides insights that are hugely helpful for anyone who might be working with issues like mental health problems, domestic abuse and substance misuse. I genuinely think any social worker, teacher or mental health professional will learn things by listening to her. I certainly did. So if you have not seen it – do watch In My Skin. We’ve kept spoilers to a minimum, so you can watch the webinar first or watch it after the series. 

Blog by Professor Donald Forrester

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