From Imagination to Reality

As a psycotherapist, Kim Schneiderman successfully uses writing exercises in her therapy sessions.  (Photos provided)
As a psycotherapist, Kim Schneiderman successfully uses writing exercises in her therapy sessions.

A New York-based psychotherapist will be in Pikesville this week promoting her new book, which teaches self-help through a writing program that asks readers to take an outside perspective on their own lives.

Kim Schneiderman will be at the Pikesville Barnes & Noble on June 11 at 7 p.m. promoting her upcoming book, “Step Out of your Story.” (Editor’s note: Schneiderman is a former Jewish Times freelance writer.)

“When I was a little girl … I had the uncanny sense that I was a character in a story,” said Kim Schneiderman. “I’d imagine reading about the exact same situation in a novel. First, I would ask myself, ‘What would I hope the main character would do in response to these circumstances? What actions or outcomes would I root for as the reader of this story?’”

Schneiderman began developing writing exercises, with those questions in mind, as a way to help her patients look at the larger narratives of their personal lives in the wake of tragedy or disaster. But she was eventually faced with a tragedy of her own.

“I was developing a workbook when my father was diagnosed with cancer and I had to see if I could walk my own talk,” said Schneiderman. “Could I transform my life from a narrative perspective? Could I really find a redemptive narrative despite losing both parents?”

Even though she had a challenging relationship with her father and was his end-of-life caregiver, they bonded when she shared with him the book proposal for “Step Out of Your Story,” which he ultimately supported.

After reading an interview from Rabbi David Aaron, Schneiderman took inspiration from his book, “Endless Light,” which asks readers to look at themselves in more than just the roles they assume in life, a practice which draws from kabbalah.

“How can I help clients look at their lives from this distance?” said Schneiderman.

Writing themselves as a story character was a natural choice for Schneiderman, who always had an active imagination as a child. Beyond helping her through personal tragedies, the exercises have proven useful for her former students who continue to use them.

Gavriel Meir-Levi was one of Schneiderman’s first students who became captivated with her ideas of writing his own life from an outside perspective when he attended one of her workshops in Manhattan. When Schneiderman began offering therapy sessions using her writing exercises, and Meir-Levi quickly signed up.

“At the time, people were getting very excited about [President Barack] Obama as a candidate. He kept saying the U.S has lost its narrative arch,” said Meir-Levi. This idea resonated with him as someone who was stuck in a desk job.

060515_author2“I began writing this fictional story of myself being trapped on a desert island and what would I do if I ever got off the island,” said Meir-Levi. “After writing these different version of my life and all these different things I would do if I got off the island, I finally left the island.”

Meir-Levi quit his desk job and drove out to Chicago to help the Obama campaign.

“It opened all these doors and a whole chapter of my life that never would have gotten written otherwise,” said Meir-Levi, who has continued to use the writing exercises since then.

Susan Saroff, who met Schneiderman at a 2010 workshop in Manhattan, is also still using the exercises she learned.

“[Schneiderman] is a fabulous leader in the way she has you write in the third person. It gives you an unusual mirror to reflect in,” said Saroff. “I find it to be a useful tool in making decisions in my life. It is a way to write that is different from a journal.”

What connects Schneiderman and all of her clients writing is ultimately perspective.

“We can’t fully control the story but we can mind them to develop from them,” said Schneiderman. “There is one way to tell your story, but isn’t there another?”

Kim Schneiderman hosts a writing workshop on June 12 from 10:00 a.m. to noon at WordPress Abilities OT Services & Irlen Visual Learning Center, 600 Reisterstown Road, Suite 600GHI, Pikesville.

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