Using the Professional Tree of Life with staff and teams

Course information
This course will be taking place online
Course information
This course will be taking place online
About the course

Tree of Life workshops originated in Zimbabwe as part of therapeutic work with traumatised communities (Ncube-Mlilo and Denborough, 2007). It is a form of narrative practice that supports people to tell stories of themselves in ways that make them stronger.

A ‘professional’ adaptation of the Tree of Life model was developed for use with youth workers by Kis-Sines and Pluznic (n.d.) in Canada. The Professional Tree of Life approach encourages staff to reflect on our relationship to our work, the professional identities we share and co-create at work and how we contribute to each other’s’ working lives, the team and the services.

The stories gathered from a Professional Tree of Life workshop can help teams to remember and reconnect to the values that brought them to this work, the individual skills and strengths of each team member, and the team as a whole. These are stories that should continue to be told, strengthened, and privileged about people and teams in the NHS. The NHS and its staff are not only defined by waiting lists, underresourced services, and too much paperwork, but by the people working in it every day and their positive stories about their work and each other.

The Professional Tree of Life uses the power of the metaphor of the tree and its forest to embody the statement ‘we are stronger in a forest and greater than the sum of our parts if we stand together and support each other.

The forest must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. Regular fatalities would result in many large gaps in the tree canopy, which would make it easier for storms to get inside the forest and uproot more trees. The heat of summer would reach the forest floor and dry out. Every tree would suffer. Every tree therefore is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible.”

From, Peter Wohleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

Course programme

During the day workshop, attendees will be introduced to the narrative therapy principles that guide this intervention and how they fit with staff support. Time will be spent connecting to the metaphor of the tree and the forest, which is an important aspect of this creative technique that helps to facilitate the exploration of our ‘preferred stories of our working lives’.

Participants will be invited to take part in the tree of life workshop, draw their own tree and sharetheir trees with others to build a forest. The forest is about strengthening connections with others, the team and the wider organisation and to reflect on the collective resources that can be accessed to help ‘weather the storms’.

An individual tree represents: roots – our training background and professional influences; the ground – daily practices at work ; the trunk – skills and principles we bring to work; the branches – hopes and dreams for our work, our colleagues, the team and the people we work for; leaves – who supports our working lives and the fruits/flowers – how we contribute to others at work and who contributes to our working lives.

Trees are then displayed for the rest of the group and stories shared amongst members as part of a ‘Forest of life’. Participants are then invited to consider how the different aspects of their trees can be sustained through adversity or ‘The Storms of Life’. Finally, ‘Certificates’ facilitate the sharing and celebration of stories and we look at the ways a team can document key aspects of preferred stories of working together and how ‘stories told are stories lived’.

Learning objectives

What you will learn from taking this course:

  • Learn about a new creative model of staff support and development based on Narrative therapy and the Tree of Life model.
  • Reflect on our relationship to our work, our identity at work and how this is influenced by our colleagues, teams and services. Think about how we contribute to our colleagues working lives and how they contribute to ours.
  • Reconnect to the values and principles that brought us to this work in the first place.
  • Build stronger working relationships with our colleagues by sharing stories based on our strengths and resources and the history of these stories.
  • Consider the role of our culture in developing our ‘selves’ at work and relationships with others.
  • Develop a sense of work community, an interconnected forest, and support network to help weather the storms together.

Course schedule

Target audience
Assistant psychologist, Clinical psychologist, Consultant – non-psychiatry any, Consultant – psychiatry, CT1-3 – psychiatry, Occupational therapist, Other, Psychology student, Psychotherapist, RMN, Social worker, ST4-7 – psychiatry, Student support staff
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