A Systematic Review of Digital Storytelling as Psychotherapy for People With Mental Health Needs

Osahon Ogbeiwi, Wajid Khan, Krishna Stott, Anna Zaluczkowska, Michael Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Storytelling is used in many cultures as an important way to communicate historical messages of lived experiences intergenerationally. Past studies indicated that storytelling is an effective tool in education and mental health, but evidence of the therapeutic use of digital storytelling is scarce. This review therefore explored available literature evidence of the use of digital storytelling media as mental health therapy to identify knowledge gaps for a further Secret Story Network role-playing game intervention study. Based on some key search terms and a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria, 14 full-text articles were systematically selected through searches of mainly EBSCOhost that connected seven databases, including AMED, BNI, CINAHL, EMBASE, EMCARE, Medline, and PsycINFO. The studies reviewed suggested a tactical focus on adolescents and adults older than 18 years and more females than men. Ten digital storytelling media interventions were found in 11 sources, but only two studies on older adults with dementia had a therapeutic intervention framework. Qualitative and mixed-methods reported in nine sources were shown to be the common study methodologies. The evidence extracted also revealed six criteria for classifying storytelling types, and the purposes, effects, benefits, and uses of digital storytelling indicated a general assumption that digital storytelling interventions have therapeutic, educational, social, and psychological effects. However, evidence suggests that while digital storytelling may significantly reduce symptoms of depression (p<.05), its effects on other mental health symptoms are inconclusive. Thus, further research into the psychotherapeutic effect of digital storytelling is necessary. Five implications for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psychotherapy Integration
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Jan 2024

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