Gerontology Program

Tapestries Training

 

A Curriculum for Helping Professionals

 Developed by journalist and poet, Elizabeth Vega (left in photo), theTapestries Model (TM) of Life Review combines personal story-telling with biographical interviewing and writing techniques. The TM utilizes elements of Guided Autobiography, relational interviewing and journalism to give voice to the life narrative of an older person (life reviewer). The interviewer meets with the life reviewer over 6 or more one hour sessions pre-arranged and negotiated to meet mutual objectives.

Stories are told, written down by the interviewer in the first person voice of the reviewer, and revised in a collaborative, iterative process over time. As each new story is added, the interviewer reads it back to the reviewer and edits are made to ensure accuracy and comfort. The final product is a written autobiography, often bound as a book, and supplemented with photographs, copies of awards, pieces of artwork, and other visual elements.

While effortful, the TM process is also enjoyable and enriching for both parties. As with other forms of life review, looking back on one's life story provides an opportunity to revisit past challenges, triumphs, losses, accomplishments, etc., and put them into present perspective. Even past traumas can be viewed as meaningful and influential when considered as part of an overall life narrative. We are the sum of our experiences - good and bad - and most older adults appreciate an opportunity to share their life stories in this way. The written autobiography becomes a testament to a life well-lived and a keepsake for the older adult and future generations.

How do I use the Training?

You will be viewing edited video segments taken from a full-day workshop. There are two sets of video segments: Core and Supplemental. The Core segments are intended to provide a basic overview of the skills necessary to apply the model in practice. The Supplemental segments provide more in-depth information and case examples.

The Tapestries Model is psycho-educational in nature, and not intended as a clinical intervention. Trainees with a background in counseling, interviewing, journalism, creative writing, etc., may find the model easier to understand and implement than those new to this area of practice. Most communities have Hospices and other healthcare organizations that provide life review services. Volunteering for one of these services is an excellent way to learn more and gain first-hand experience. Many on-line resources are available also.


This video-based training curriculum was developed from a full-day workshop for helping professionals and graduate students held at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) on October 25, 2008. The Planning Committee is thankful to the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis for funding this effort. We are also thankful to the workshop participants for their wonderful contributions to this training and willingness to be featured here for the education of others.

Planning Committee:
Mary Feenery Jones, MSG, St. Louis, MO
Tom Meuser, PhD, Director, Gerontology Graduate Program, UMSL
Elizabeth Vega, Berea College, Berea, KY

Fair Use of this Curriculum: This curriculum (both DVD and on-line formats) is offered for Not-for-Profit educational use only. The video segments may not be extracted, posted elsewhere, re-edited, or otherwise modified without prior permission from the developers. Contact Dr. Tom Meuser for more information (meusert@umsl.edu or 314-516-5421).