Documenting Life Stories Through Guided Autobiography
Cheryl Svensson, MSG, Ph.D.
Link to register coming soon.
Guided Autobiography (GAB) has been researched and developed by Dr. James Birren over the past 40 years as a method for helping people document their life stories. Guided by a trained instructor, participants are led through themes and priming questions that evoke memories of events once known but filed away and seemingly forgotten. Each participant writes a two-page story on a particular theme each week, brings the story to class and reads it to a small group of receptive classmates. Writing and sharing life stories with others is an ideal way to find new meaning in life and to put life events into perspective. While connecting with one another on their journeys of self-discovery, participants feel enlivened by the group experience and gain a greater appreciation of their own lives and of the lives of others. GAB can be a powerful catalyst for improved self-esteem, self-confidence and communication within communities and within families.
About Cheryl Svensson: Cheryl has been involved in the field of aging since the 1970s when she landed her first job out of college as a social work assistant in a convalescent hospital. That job motivated her to want to learn as much about aging as possible and she applied to the very first Masters in Gerontology program at USC where she first met Dr. Birren. After completing her master’s, she moved to Sweden and entered the doctoral program in psychology with an emphasis on research in aging. In 1987 she created and taught a class for older adults in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at California State University Fullerton. The class is called Wisdom Exchange because of the reciprocity in information and exchange among all involved in the class. In the late 1990s, Cheryl reconnected with Dr. Jim Birren and enrolled in his Guided Autobiography course at UCLA. She has been a firm believer in the power of the GAB process and the potential to change lives ever since. Cheryl continued to work closely with Jim Birren and the Guided Autobiography work group to develop and expand the Autobiographical studies program. She has now trained more than 400 GAB instructors worldwide in a live, interactive online GAB training course.