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Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups Paperback – June 7, 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Nothing is left to chance in the manual and it is written with a depth of understanding and perception that effectively demonstrates the authors' cumulative practice experience.

(Patricia Higham Ageing and Society)

This is an inspirational and practical guide on autobiography workshops.

(Clinical Gerontologist)

The book is overflowing with voices of experience. The authors are obviously very familiar with the practical information needed to conduct guided autobiography groups successfully.

(Robert C. Atchley, Ph.D., Naropa University)

About the Author

James E. Birren is associate director of the UCLA Center on Aging. He is the author of Guiding Autobiography Groups for Older Adults. Kathryn N. Cochran is an independent writer and editor who writes on a range of topics, including personal development, creativity, the family, education, and the arts and sciences. She also conducts guided autobiography workshops using the Birren method of guided autobiography.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (June 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801866340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801866340
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
September 8, 2001
Book Review by Cheryl Svensson
Telling the Stories of Life Through Guided Autobiography Groups
James E. Birren and Kathryn Cochran
I have led Guided Autobiography groups using, Telling the Stories of Life Through Guided Autobiography Groups, as my guide. The manual has proven to be the ticket to success!.
Guided Autobiography is an ordered, logical process of sequential steps that assist in writing one's life story. Each of the ten week sessions focuses on a theme that explores the important aspects of life and provides sensitizing questions as a guide to uncover the true life story. The purpose is an exploration of one's own life in a meaningful way that is
self-enriching and can also be left as a legacy for family members. The group process supports this end and provides the security and encouragement for self-exploration.
James Birren and Kathryn Cochran have provided guidelines to lead groups from the initial steps of recruiting group members to the final wrap-up session and saying good bye. Complete lesson plans are included that cover every feature of the weekly session. Each of the ten-week sessions includes a specific checklist, e.g., reminders to bring name tags, roster sheet, paper, pens, etc. to ensure success. The sensitzing questions, one of the keys to the Guided Autobiography process, are
included for each life theme. Furthermore, there are additional
suggestions and techniques for each session to stimulate creative writing skills, use of metaphor, and prompts to prime memories among others.
Read more ›
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This book describes in great detail the method James Birren has used for over a quarter of a century. It contains very useful and evocative prompts covering major areas of life to use with autobiography groups. Its advice on group organization and facilitation is outstanding, revealing the knowledge, perception, skills and experience of the authors. The tone throughout the book is one of respect and attention to the uniqueness and dignity of all individuals involved, not surprising to any familiar with the career of or personally acquainted with its major author, James Birren.

I found that this handbook also provided innumerable aids in facilitating a process similar to Guided Autobiography, "Life Review," for groups in a variety of settings--nursing homes, retreat and senior centers, faith sharing groups and training of counseling and health care professionals. There is nothing important left out from the organization to the implementation of such groups. The insightful and sensitive prompts provided addressing a person's life story have routinely produced rich responses from those involved. While not the major intent of the book, utilizing the process described has not failed to produce group bonding in the groups where it has been used.

Particular attention should be paid to the leadership of these groups. Experienced leaders will recognize the wise advice and others will have sound counsel from Birren and Cocharan about the skills needed and pitfalls to be avoided. I highly recommend the book for guided autobiography and other similar groups.
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I found this book to provide excellent guidance on facilitating a Life Writing course. I had no experience in running a Life Writing Program but with the lesson outlines and other important suggestions included I found my feet very quickly. I have to admit, I adapted some of the lesson plans and put more emphasis on writing exercises which stimulated people's memories, creativity and flow, rather than personal development.

The groups I've taught were mainly older people, aged 60 years +, and they seemed to appreciate this focus. The sensitizing questions and weekly topics offered in the book and given out to participants seemed to stimulate a lot of writing and creativity. One of the Senior groups I ran wanted the course to run 24 weeks rather than 12 and has kept meeting (self run) weekly for nearly 18 months. The group is about to publish a book of stories. There also seems to be friendships along with confidence and well developed writing capacity among the participants. After a year some members had written more than 25,000 words on their life story. I suggest reading Gabrielle Rico's book, Writing the Natural Way also, as her writing exercises help people overcome writing blocks and can be incorporated into lessons.
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An inspiring and meticulous Handbook that provides everything you need to know about conducting groups using this proven methodology. Includes "camera-ready" materials for planning, promoting, organizing, and conducting your course -- from the initial news release, to the final session evaluation form. The authors are the originator of the method, James Birren, a giant in the field of gerontology, and an experienced practitioner.
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Most personal biographies tend to be glorified laundry lists of chronicled events: schools, marriage, job, children.

To break with the boredom of linearity, revered gerontologist James Birren suggests approaching the subject's life from the vantage point of various themes: family, geography, work, spirituality, aspirations . . . the list goes on.

Put into context, the talking points of a life take on a resonance that makes them appealing to even non-related readers.

Which makes this book a bargain. Better yet, take one of Birren's Guided Autobiography (GAB) trainer's courses and lead a group on a journey through their own lives, looking at them with fresh eyes and discovering who they really are and how they got that way.
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