From time to time you’ve seen me post here about the Guided Autobiography method developed by Dr. James Birren. It’s the best-kept secret for enriching your life, in my opinion, not to mention an effective and enjoyable way to get your life stories down for friends and family to enjoy…maybe for centuries to come.
Let’s take a moment to consider Dr. Birren’s significance. He was one of the pioneers in the field of gerontology. In 2003 he founded the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies at UCLA with Cheryl Svensson, Ph.D. and a small group of close associates. After Dr. Birren’s death in 2016, Cheryl became the director of the Center.
Here’s a short (:59) clip from 2015 of Dr. Birren answering Cheryl’s question, “What is your most important learning in life?”
I began teaching Guided Autobiography following the curriculum Dr. Birren laid out in his book, Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography, a decade before I learned that there was a community of Guided Autobiography Instructors and a certifying body. Now, I have found a collegial home among the GAB Instructors, and have given back to it by offering marketing workshops for GAB Instructors, drawing on my past career in marketing.
But the Birren Center lost its academic home when UCLA decided to absorb it into its gerontological research programs. Cheryl has continued the Birren Center’s work, but to become sustainable, the Center needs to reorganize as a nonprofit organization.
Guided Autobiography instructors–and everyone who wants to receive training in this field–will be the primary beneficiaries of this new membership organization. But think of the lives touched by these instructors–there are now over 600, all around the world.
- Students, who find in these workshops a supportive environment for reflecting and writing on life’s big questions and branching points;
- Their families, who receive the stories written in these workshops–a priceless gift;
- Their communities, where the diverse stories weave a tapestry of greater social connection and empathy.
To pay the start-up costs for launching the Birren Center, we are conducting a fundraising campaign to raise $15,000 to establish programs and services many of our GAB Instructors asked for in a recent survey conducted by our Board of Directors, of which I am the secretary.
Thank you in advance for your generosity. No gift is too small to help us fund the new website and communication channels, course offerings, and publications we envision.
- Sarah White