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Exploring the utility of a pilot tree of life group in an inpatient setting

Joshua Wellman (Department of Psychology, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK)
Francesca Lepori (Waltham Forest Early Intervention in Psychosis, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK)
Rebecca Szlachcic (Department of Psychology, Cygnet Health Care, Bradford, UK)

The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice

ISSN: 1755-6228

Article publication date: 11 July 2016




Narrative therapy uses psychological thinking to help people reconnect with important aspects of their lives that have become subjugated by a dominant problem story. Collective narrative practices (CNPs) such as the tree of life (ToL) metaphor apply these principles to communities. Limited research suggests that ToL groups benefit service users and staff in inpatient settings. The purpose of this paper is to explore the utility of a pilot ToL group, run in an inpatient treatment ward.


Nine participants attended a seven-week ToL group. Eight service users and two facilitators contributed to the evaluation. Qualitative data were derived from interviews and questionnaires and analysed from a social constructionist perspective using inductive thematic analysis.


Three themes were generated: first, a sense of community – service user and staff relationships developed both inside and outside of the group, through sharing personal experiences. Second, rediscovering identity – participants reconnected with important aspects of their lives, which helped them to plan their recovery. Third, usefulness of the metaphor – service users and staff reflected on useful aspects of the ToL metaphor and how groups could be improved in the future. Data collection methods were key limitations of the study. Further groups should be conducted, whilst considering means of developing CNPs and their evaluation in this setting.


Few evaluations of ToL groups have been conducted in inpatient settings. This research outlines considerations for setting up and evaluating ToL groups and highlights their value for service users and staff.



Thanks to Dr David Harper, for his guidance in relation to paper structure and methodology.


Wellman, J., Lepori, F. and Szlachcic, R. (2016), "Exploring the utility of a pilot tree of life group in an inpatient setting", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 172-181.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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