The Hero’s Journey for Teens
History of the Hero’s Journey
The hero’s journey is the epitome of all storytelling structures. You can go through just about every movie, book, or story you’ve been told and see the structure of the hero’s journey reflected in the storyline. It is a way to determine the steps that make a story—how to understand one and even how to create one. Originally outlined by Joseph Campbell, Hollywood’s Christopher Vogler simplified the hero’s journey to the following 12 steps:
- The ordinary world: The hero goes through their normal routine and the audience is introduced to their everyday life.
- Call to adventure: The hero sees or faces the first initial problem. This stage is the catalyst that begins their adventure.
- Refusal of the call: The hero initially refuses this call to action to fix the problem, citing personal reasons, hardships, or an inability to solve the problem for refusal.
- Meeting with a mentor: The hero meets with an elder, mentor, mythical being, supernatural entity, or someone else who can help them see they have the power or need to fix the problem. They may even train the hero.
- Crossing the first threshold: The hero sets off to start their journey.
- Tests, allies, and enemies: The hero faces tests, allies, and enemies along the way. These may be known enemies/friends or they may be exposed at this stage.
- Approach: This is the stage where setbacks or new challenges for the hero occur.
- Ordeal: The hero faces a major obstacle. This could be a fight, intellectual struggle, total loss, rebirth, or catastrophic change in dynamic. The hero might barely manage to make it through.
- Reward/seizing the sword: The hero wins, they make it through, and they realize that they have the power to complete their biggest challenge and solve their problem.
- The road back: This is a journey back to their ordinary life. Now that they’ve been through the ordeal, they’ll feel changed and may struggle to integrate back into ordinary life.
- Resurrection: The initial problem, or a version of it, resurfaces, showing the hero that they need to spring into action once more. The hero will face their final test where everything they learned through their journey must come together, and everything is at stake.
- Return with the elixir: The hero conquers and shares their knowledge, skill, elixir, or solution to their ordinary world to help everyone else.
The Purpose of the Hero’s Journey
The purpose of the hero’s journey in clinical settings is to provide a blueprint for growth, change, or overcoming significant challenges. Researchers with Frontiers in Psychology determined that there are several ways the hero’s journey can help people, especially children, and adolescents, work through changes:
- The “coming of age” and “rite of passage” displayed in the hero’s journey can help young people, especially adolescents work through the changes in their physical and mental health at this time in their life.
- The hero’s journey promotes healing and sharing stories of growth, which can stimulate some of the same effects as group therapy.
- Sharing stories within the framework of the hero’s journey promotes unity and shared understanding with others.
- The hero’s journey promotes personal growth and gifts to society. The emphasis on the hero helping others fosters this sense of community in others.
- This story structure emphasizes transformations, which help deepen a person’s spiritual and cosmic understanding.
Your Personal Hero’s Journey
Everyone has the power to pursue their own journey as the hero of their life. Many people use the hero’s journey as a form of therapy to help them through trials and struggles. Frontiers in Psychology says the hero’s journey is used by mental health professionals to help people process ailments like trauma, addiction, grief, mental health disorders, and more. Psychologists can make progress in clients’ healing using the hero’s journey in several ways:
- Reconstruct narrative identity: This means the person can reform who they are going forward and have the agency to make healthy, heroic choices for a better future.
- Foster a sense of hope: At the end of the hero’s journey, the hero wins. They’re able to solve the problem and handle any future problems that come because they’ve already been through the worst of the worst, and they came out stronger.
- Gain a sense of control: When the client thinks about their situation and problems they’ve faced, they can create a layout for how the rest of the story will go. The client, with the knowledge that they are the hero, can call the shots and feel in control of their situation again.
- Build a positive identity: Knowing in the end the client will reach their goal can help them look more positively on their circumstances and any understand setbacks. They may even be able to determine where they are on their hero’s journey and look at what comes next.
The hero’s journey narrative structure can be used to zoom out on trauma patients’ lives and look objectively at their stories. They can determine what problems they are trying to solve and ask themselves what the hero of a story would do in their situation. Who can they ask to support them in this journey? What does that look like? Breaking this down and actively participating in their next steps can help the client feel a sense of growth and healing, and help them find closure as they work through their hero’s journey to solve the problem. If your teen is struggling with trauma, mental health issues, or behavioral issues, call Havenwood Academy. Our professional and experienced staff can help your teen daughter through her trauma, sometimes using the hero’s journey as a guide. We offer a myriad of therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, brainspotting, EMDR, and more. Call us today at (435) 586-2500 for more information.
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