To find out more about the Team of Life programme, our Team of Life training and to the Team of Life Kit please contact us.
As part of our work with schools and NHS Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, we have developed a resilience programme for children aged 7-13 using sporting metaphors.
The Team of Life is a strength-based approach that comes from a type of counselling called narrative therapy. Using the language of sport, the Team of Life invites young people to identify key support people or ‘team-mates’ in their lives. This builds resilience by enabling children to build a sense of social support and connected identity.
“I have used the Team of Life in my UK practice as a child clinical psychologist both in partnership work with schools, as well as within Child and Adolescent Mental Health services. It’s such a fun way of having meaningful interactions with children and young people. I love the way it acknowledges some of the challenges young people face, while being respectful of and their experience, skills and ideas, AND making it possible to enjoy light hearted and playful banter at the same time! Having seen for myself how the young people I have worked with have benefitted, particularly in terms of building confidence and reducing feelings of anxiety and social isolation, I wanted to find a way for this approach to reach more young people. This is why I wanted to develop the Team of Life Kit. I hope this resource enables other practitioners to implement this truly innovative approach within their setting and that they too can experience the immense satisfaction of helping groups of young people build their team of life.”
Dr Vicky Eames (Co-author of the Team of Life Kit)
There are 10 sessions in the programme and each session involves:
- Warm up team game
- Narrative activity (sharing stories of team-work)
- Cool Down mindfulness activity
- Home-goal idea to try at home
“Before the Team of Life I didn’t feel like I fitted in with other young people. I had worries about joining the group; what if I said something silly and everyone laughed? What if I didn’t fit in? But it’s like starting the next chapter in your life where you don’t feel alone because everyone is in the same boat. In the Team of Life I learnt skills to manage my worries that I can keep using and I grew in confidence. I made some great friends there who I go out with after school. I also am now part of a drama group and I have a lead role in the play. Overall, I am just more confident and I am doing things now that I would have been too worried about doing; like singing on stage!”
Team of Life participant
The Team of Life Kit is a fully downloadable resource that includes a comprehensive syllabus of structured sessions, along with all necessary supporting materials to enable facilitators to deliver the Team of Life resilience programme.
“I would tell other parents who are thinking about their child taking part to definitely do it! Since taking part in the Team of Life people have noticed a change; he is socialising more outside of school with friends. I feel more positive about his ability to progress in the future.”
Included in The Kit :
- Full facilitator’s guidance
- Structured session plans
- Printable handouts
- PowerPoint support
- Animations and podcast
All resources are downloaded to your own device and can be printed when needed to support delivery (bound copies for illustration purposes only).
“Great, easy to follow resources, step by step.” Teaching Assistant
“Really well-designed, professional and accessible” Primary Mental Health Worker
“Excellent resource pack” Faculty Assistant
“Helpful resources, very appealing” Behaviour Manager
An example of one of the narrative activities in the programme are Goal Maps. Goal Maps are a really important part of the programme as they help children and young people to share the story of how they worked together with their team to ‘score’ an important goal in their life.
“The goal maps, it kinda gave me an idea of other ways to reach my goals and people I could use ‘cause I have many goals but normally I don’t ask people to help me out, I try and do it solo, but it doesn’t always work out, so it really made me think about other people I could ask for help if I need to achieve a goal.”
Charlies goal map tells the story of how Charlie made new friends with the help of their team . . .
Getting ready to take that penalty shot takes focus. Each session in the programme includes a breathing space activity called ‘Zone-in’, which introduces children and young people to the practice of mindfulness by building on existing skills and experience of ‘zoning-in’ within sport.
A randomised control trial led by University of Liverpool showed the programme was more effective than usual pastoral care following transition to secondary schools.
The research, involving schools in Wirral and Cheshire, showed that the Team of Life programme helped children to:
- feel less isolated
- be less socially withdrawn
- show more pro-social behaviour such as kindness and friendliness
“It helps people to not get sad over
small things anymore and feel people are there for them.”“It reminds you of who’s there for you, and like who can look after you when you’re down.”“I started feeling more confidence just ‘cause people around me who I know would help, and that I would have a support from other places, such as home.”“Yeah like treat people better and erm, like if I see someone who’s feeling down, like go and talk to them.”
- Children decide who they would like to think of as being in their ‘team of life’ from among their family, friends and other people who are important to them.
- Recognising the skills in their teams helps them to build confidence.
- Drawing how they worked together with their team to achieve a goal is an innovative way of telling stories of achievement and hope.
- Children are reminded that celebrating goals with a team is much more fun than on your own!
- Being part of a team makes it easier to think about how to tackle problems together
Children and young people who have experienced:
- Losses, trauma or hardship
- Low level mental health problems
- Concerns in relation to transition to secondary school
- Difficulties with friendships
- Problems related to self-esteem
The Team of Life methodology can be used with individuals or groups in schools or other settings working with children and young people. It was originally developed with former child soldiers in Uganda and has frequently been used with refugee groups. See the Dulwich Centre for more information.
Team of Life in Schools
“I have used the Team of Life extensively in Year 6 and 7 to support transition… it has proved extremely helpful in addressing many issues of adjustment, helping individuals to build friendship groups and ‘teams'”
Learning Mentor, Wirral
A pragmatic randomised control trial led by University of Liverpool and involving 8 schools is currently being written up for publication. A paper published in Education and Child Psychology describes some of the initial research findings underpinning our Team of Life work in schools can be accessed here. The story of our work in schools is also described in an article published in Context magazine which can be found here.
The video below shows the first Team of Life group in UK schools delivered with The Mosslands School in Wirral.
A paper published in Education and Child Psychology describes some of the initial research findings underpinning Team of Life work in schools can be accessed here. A further paper describing how the programme was developed has been published in Context magazine and can be found here.
“Having worked with the Team of Life for the past few years, it is a resource that I value immensely and recommend as an early intervention programme. The Team of Life provides a common language that most students understand, which gives a shared meeting for participants. This promotes a safe and inclusive environment, which breaks down any barriers to participation and communication. I have used the team of life with students displaying low confidence, self worth, anxiety, anger, bullying, social communication difficulties, ADD as well as young people experiencing a chaotic home life. I have included students as a positive peer influence to support group members and create a support network for students around school, part of a peer-mentoring programme. The results vary with each group, however, I consistently witness students experiencing an appreciation and understanding of the value of support networks and how this has a positive impact on their lives. This seems to be a key moment in the programme, which allows students to identify positive and supportive people in their life and reduce the sense of feeling isolated and alone.
I have been particularly struck by the importance of stories, which comes from a narrative approach and how this can be used for children to tell their story, with a deeper understanding of how their experiences shape their attitude towards the future, finding key positive learning experiences from difficult circumstances. I have found that this not only enhances resilience, but also increases understanding and empathy of themselves and the world around them.
The team of life builds a support network for students and encourages them to create their own, real life team, for which they can establish a sense of belonging and tactics to approach difficulties, with a team who have genuine care, respect and interest in them achieving and being happy. I use the Team of Life extensively in Year 6 and 7 to support transition and it has proved very popular, being a well known project around the school. I have noticed that as a result of the programme, student attitudes towards the transition to secondary school has become more positive, with students feeling a sense of affiliation and belonging to the school before arriving. It has also proved extremely helpful in addressing many issues of adjustment, helping individuals to build friendship groups and ‘teams’. This de-escalates difficult situations at an early stage, resulting in a reduction of anxiety, poor attendance or social isolation”
Claire Owens (formerly Family Support and Well-Being Co-ordinator, The Mosslands School, now Director of Next Chapter).
“I work as a school psychologist in a co-educational high school in Melbourne, Australia. I heard about the Team of Life whilst attending training at Dulwich Centre in 2007. I remember being excited by the prospect of trying it out, as I meet with many young people from a refugee background, particularly from South Sudan, where individual or group counselling doesn’t even exist as a concept, let alone as an option for talking about hardship and trauma. It was the collective narrative approach that drew me to this methodology to begin with and the possibility of working through trauma in non-re-traumatising ways. I have since taken it up with young people more familiar with Western therapeutic practices to great effect too, using what they are most passionate about as the central metaphor, for example, Australian Rules football, music, dance, cooking, driving and so on.
What no longer surprises me but very much did in our first attempt was the enthusiasm shown by young people in taking it up. I had been used to running less culturally sensitive ‘group programs’ involving predominately Melbourne-born young men. Initial efforts to connect were usually greeted with scepticism, for example, ‘Why have I been selected?’ And, ‘How many weeks does this go for? In relation to the Team of Life, young men unfamiliar with my role in their school, or carrying negative connotations about it, where asking around to find my office, so they could be reminded of when we were meeting next. Their friends, who had not been invited (as it could not be offered to all) where looking me up to ask if they could join!
Having taken on this initiative as an annual event, a legacy has been established, which has enabled previous Team of Life graduates to support those new to these practices. They are all able to join together in public recognition of their achievements during Team of Life award ceremonies and in writing and responding to documents and letter from Team of Lifers all around the world.I have yet to find a more culturally relevant methodology to borrow from and, I surprise myself in not mentioning the World Game once in my account! After all, it is a fact that most of the young people I’m supporting are fluent in the language of Football, and it is this language that enables them to re-connect with their skills and knowledges in tackling the worries, concerns or obstacles that come their way, connecting with the people who support and love them and, in achieving what they are hoping for in their lives.”
Milan Colic (School Psychologist, Melbourne).
“I have been using the Team of Life with a group of eight primary school students, girls and boys, aged between 10 and 12 years old. Each of the students have been identified as having problems with anxiety, low self-esteem and low social skills. The program is half way through and is going really well. It is giving the students confidence in knowing that they are not alone. They have greater self-confidence in knowing that they have achieved so much in their past, the program has made them aware of past achievements. The ‘Team of Life’ has also given the students the opportunity to reflect on who is most important to them and why.”
Leigh Hill (Student Support Services Officer, Wodonga, North-East Victoria).