This exercise is useful for people who have experienced trauma in their past and need help to build hope for the future.
- Draw a river across a page. The upper side of the bank represents the past, the river is the present, and the bottom side of the bank represents the future.
- Use the client’s words to describe their past (both good and bad things) and write them on the side of the river that represents the past. Or get them to draw or use symbols of the memorable things in their past.
- Talk about one problem (usually a behaviour, such as hitting people when you feel angry, or drinking when you feel hurt) and where this behaviour sits. Is it in the past? Is it in the present? Does the client want it in the future? What would it take to leave it in the past? Who might be able to help?
- What does the client want for their future? Some clients may find this difficult to imagine. Keep it concrete (such as no violence).
- What do they want to bring across the river from the past into the future? What do they want to leave behind?
- The future bank represents the new story the client wants for their lives.
In this example, the client has looked at what was in the past and what they want for their future. On the bank of the river that represents the past, the client has drawn their family home. They have drawn it as a place that is on fire, a place that frightens them. They have also drawn rain clouds to represent their feelings of sadness and depression. On the future bank they have a happy house where their family is together and getting along well. A happy future has been depicted with flowers and apple trees.