tips for integrating strength-based tools, from the real experts—you!

Posted: 11/06/2024

From its very inception, Innovative Resources was driven and inspired by the ideas and feedback of those who use the cards at the coal face—people working with people in all kinds of settings and situations.

Thirty years on, and the stories keep coming—from teachers, therapists, counsellors, mental health professionals, child and family workers, supervisors, chaplains—practically anyone wanting to ignite conversations and help people unlock their strengths and potential.

building rapport in high schools

I still remember the time a writer friend of mine was booked to speak to a class of Year 10 boys at a Central Victorian secondary school. This was a ‘tough’ environment and the students in question were amongst the most disengaged in the region.

My friend headed into the fray, armed with a pack of Storycatching cards. She laid them out on the floor and asked each student to choose a handful of cards that grabbed their attention. They were then invited to open their notebooks and write the words ‘I remember’ at the top of the page.

‘Write whatever comes to mind as you look at the cards,’ she told the boys. ‘Don’t worry about spelling, or punctuation, or any of those things—just write.’

What ensued was an hour of writing, storytelling, laughter and sharing that she described as ‘just amazing’.

‘I’d been so worried in the lead up,’ she said, ‘but all those young men had a story to tell, and the flood gates opened.’

That’s the power of Innovative Resources cards—they spark new ways of thinking and help create safe spaces for people to share feelings.

primary school children reflect deeply

 A teacher from the Northern Territory, Lillian, shared her story about encouraging vulnerability and trust in the classroom. She’d been using the Deep Speak cards with her Grade 6 students.

‘Prior to starting any activity with the cards, we discuss behavioural expectations and some ground rules, such as the right to pass, one voice speaking at a time, what is said in the circle stays in the circle, and the need for confidentiality and respect,’ she explained.

‘We go round the circle with each student turning over a card and considering their response. I leave the depth of response up to them. Some answer the question in one sentence, whereas others go into a deeper reflection.

‘I think the students really appreciate hearing my honest answers to the questions; this often gives them the confidence and trust to replicate it themselves when it’s their turn.’

fun ways to help children and families connect

 We hear lots of great stories about how the cards are used in child and family settings.

Louise, a counsellor from Adelaide, stresses the importance of keeping things ‘light’ when using the cards with children.

‘When I get out a set of cards I always call it a game,’ she said. ‘I keep it very light and if a child doesn’t resonate with the set, I put them away for another day.

‘Some children like to use the same sets every session and we use them in different ways, such as role play, charades, or how others may be feeling.’

Louise’s advice is to be flexible. Let the child lead the conversation, using their imagination and own words as much as possible.

navigating transitions

On the Gold Coast, the Can-Do Dinosaurs have been doing great work with families thanks to counsellor and narrative therapist, Jillian.

‘I was working with a family where two children had been court appointed to live with their dad,’ she explained. ‘Dad had a new wife and two smaller children and had not seen his kids for six years.’

Jillian used the Can-Do Dinosaurs to start some positive discussion.

‘Sitting around the table, we took turns to choose a card for each person. For example, the boy chose a card for himself, then one for his sister, his dad, his step-mum, and step- sisters. I asked him to give an example of why he chose that card for them.

‘I took a photo of each family member and, with the Can-Do Dinosaurs, made a reminder of what was chosen for them and by whom. It helped the family see that each member was contributing to the family unit, and that the small things they did were appreciated by the others.’

Often, we’re pleasantly surprised to hear of resources being used in ways that were never imagined during their creation.

strengths and goal setting in supervision

Like Stones … have feelings too! becoming a supervision tool right here at Anglicare Victoria.

‘They were really useful in helping a worker articulate how she was feeling about her planning, goal-setting and current work with a family,’ Denis told us.

‘It opened-up a whole conversation about the worker’s strengths and ways she could use them to enable a shift towards her “preferred stones”. This flowed on to new plans for the family intervention and her overall practice. It was a real “ping” moment!’

professional development—active listening

We love this example from a workshop facilitator of how Signposts can encourage deep listening.

‘At the beginning of my workshops I invite each participant to choose a Signposts card they like, whether it’s because of the image or the words. When everyone has chosen a card, participants are invited to pair up. Each person in the pair takes a turn to speak about themselves—using the card as a prompt—for two minutes, while the other person listens. Really listens.

‘At the end of two minutes the roles are reversed.

‘The “interrupters” often reflect on having to bite their tongues to stay silent. It prompts everyone to reflect on how often we do interrupt. Others reflect on how uncomfortable they are talking about themselves for two minutes, and others mention how difficult they find the silences.

‘When we stop, listen and wait during moments of silence, we are open to hearing some truly amazing things.’


by John Holton

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