Team of Life Children's Programme

Facilitator training in this innovative approach to building resilience is now being funded as part of the Cheshire & Merseyside Children and Young People's Transformation Programme

Engaging children with the language of sport not the language of problems

As part of our work with schools and NHS Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, we have developed a resilience programme for children aged 7-13 using sporting metaphors. The Team of Life is a strength-based approach that comes from a type of counselling called narrative therapy. Using the language of sport, the Team of Life invites people to identify key support people or ‘team-mates’ in their lives. This builds resilience by enabling them to build a sense of social support and connected identity.

Reducing social isolation

Team of Life helps reduce social withdrawal and increase pro-social behaviour

Since the pandemic mental health problems have increased in the UK. A recent survey undertaken by NHS Digital found that 1 in 6 children in July 2020 had a probable mental health problem, which is an increase of 50% compared to 2017. Social isolation is strongly linked to mental health problems. Research, led by University of Liverpool in partnership with Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has shown the Team of Life helps children to recognise the support around them, reduces social withdrawal and increases positive sociable behaviour.

Telling stories in ways that make us stronger

A cross-cultural narrative methodology using sporting metaphors

Given the strong associations between social inequality, race and ethnicity and mental health, more programmes are needed that move beyond an internal and individual focus and take into account people’s social and cultural context. Originating in work with former child soldiers in Uganda (Denborough, 2008), the Team of Life is one such approach that is currently being rolled out within schools and community settings within the UK including survivors of Grenfell Tower.

Key Features

  • Children decide who they would like to think of as being in their ‘team of life’ from among their family, friends and other people who are important to them.

  • Recognising the skills in their teams helps them to build confidence.

  • Drawing how they worked together with their team to achieve a goal is an innovative way of telling stories of achievement and hope.

  • Children are reminded that celebrating goals with a team is much more fun than on your own!

  • Being part of a team makes it easier to think about how to tackle problems together.


Children and young people who have experienced, for example;

  • Losses, trauma or hardship.

  • Low level mental health problems.

  • Concerns in relation to transition to secondary school.

  • Difficulties with friendships.

  • Problems related to self-esteem.


A randomised control trial led by University of Liverpool showed the programme was more effective than enhanced pastoral care following transition to secondary schools. Groups led by staff in schools trained by us showed the programme helped children to:

  • Feel less isolated

  • Be less socially withdrawn

  • Show more pro-social behaviour such as kindness and friendliness

Goal Maps

An example of one of the narrative  activities in the programme are Goal Maps. 

Goal Maps are a really important part of the programme as they help children and young people to share the story of how they worked together with their team to ‘score’ an important goal in their life.

"Goal Maps kinda gave me an idea of other ways to reach my goals and people I could use ‘cause I have many goals but normally I don’t ask people to help me out, I try and do it solo, but it doesn’t always work out, so it really made me think about other people I could ask for help if I need to achieve a goal.”

Charlie's Goal Map

Charlie tells the story of their goal map showing how they worked together with their team to make new friends.

A fun and interactive group programme

There are 10 sessions in the programme and each session involves:

  • Warm up team game 
  • Narrative activity (sharing stories of team-work)
  • Cool Down mindfulness activity 
  • Home-goal idea to try at home

The Team of Life Kit

is a fully downloadable resource that includes a comprehensive syllabus of structured sessions, along with all necessary supporting materials to enable facilitators to deliver our Team of Life Children’s Programme.

Team of Life Facilitator Training

Once you have enrolled you will have full access to the Team of Life Hub where you will be able to access all the resources, online training and community to connect with us and other practitioners so that you can be supported in your ongoing Team of Life practice.

  • Team of Life Narrative Approach Training

    Blended learning options including experiential workshop, pre-recorded training materials and follow up group coaching sessions. See dates below.

  • Team of Life Children's Programme - Facilitator's Manual

    Step by step guidance and session plans enabling you to deliver the programme.

  • Team of Life Kit

    Download, print and re-use session plans, handouts, PowerPoint support, animations and podcast.


Co-founder Riverbank Psychology

Victoria Eames

Dr Vicky Eames has worked as a clinical psychologist within both NHS adult and child & adolescent mental health services. She is an honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool. Having worked within the mental health field in the NHS and independently for more than 25 years she is passionate about exploring ways of responding to trauma and developing resilience within community settings. Inspired by the work of David Denborough, Vicky trialled the Team of Life Collective Narrative Practice approach in schools and mental health services on the Wirral, leading to the development of the Team of Life Children's Programme programme and the Team of Life Kit.

Co-founder of Riverbank Psychology

Mariangels Ferrer

Having qualified as a psychologist in Spain in 1993, Mariangels has lived and worked in the UK for over 20 years including ten years in NHS inpatient and community paediatric settings. In addition to her qualification as a clinical psychologist, she has completed master's degrees in both Systemic Family Therapy and Narrative Therapy and Community Work. Mariangels offers training and supervision of practitioners in narrative and systemic practice across the UK as part of the teaching faculty of the Institute of Narrative Therapy. She delivers groups in schools in Trafford utilising the 'Tree of Life' and is engaging Genetic Counsellors from different parts of the UK with Narrative ideas through supervision, group intervention and training.


Here's what other practitioners have said about Team of Life

Training of MHST staff

Dr Laura Tozer, Clinical Psychologist, BUCKS MHST

“The Team of Life training provided by Riverbank Psychology was incredibly helpful to our team. The experiential learning enabled the team to fully embrace the Team of Life approach and we all hugely enjoyed the training whilst learning a great deal. The training provided the opportunity for the team to learn about each other, consider who is in our own ‘team of life’ and reflect on our values. The creative approach Vicky and Mariangels took to deliver the training ensured the team learnt not only how to deliver Team of Life but also understood the narrative principles that underpins the approach. I would highly recommend this training to anyone who is looking to run Team of Life.”

Delivery of Team of Life

Claire Owens - Director, Next Chapter CIC

“The Team of Life provides a common language that most students understand. This promotes a safe and inclusive environment, which breaks down any barriers to participation and communication… I consistently witness students experiencing an appreciation and understanding of the value of support networks and how this has a positive impact on their lives. This seems to be a key moment in the programme, which allows students to identify positive and supportive people in their life and reduce the sense of feeling isolated and alone. I have been particularly struck by the importance of stories, which comes from a narrative approach and how this can be used for children to tell their story, with a deeper understanding of how their experiences shape their attitude towards the future, finding key positive learning experiences from difficult circumstances. I have found that this not only enhances resilience, but also increases understanding and empathy of themselves and the world around them.”

Team of Life Training

Martin Connell, Project Manager, The Respect Project, Newry, Northern Ireland

“The team of life training was very beneficial to the leaders involved in our Project. Not only did it raise awareness of the methodology behind team of life but it gave us as leaders the opportunity to participate in the activities that the young people would do in the programme. This gave us an insight into how to deliver the activities and why such activities were used. The training also was good fun and helped us as an organisation find out more about each other by participating in the activities. We look forward to using this approach with the young people we work with.”

What children have said about Team of Life

“It helps people to not get sad over small things anymore and feel people are there for them.” 

It reminds you of who’s there for you, and like who can look after you when you’re down.” 

“I started feeling more confidence just ‘cause people around me who I know would help, and that I would have a support from other places, such as home.”

“Yeah like treat people better and erm, like if I see someone who’s feeling down, like go and talk to them.”

Next Live Training Dates for Cheshire & Merseyside

More dates below for Autumn 2022

  • Live Online Workshop

    Friday 19th August 9-1pm AND Monday 22nd August 9-1pm

  • Face to Face Workshop

    Friday 2nd September 2022 9-5pm (Cheshire & Merseyside venue tbc)

  • Live Online Workshop

    Monday 17th October 2022 3-7pm AND Tuesday 18th October 2022 3-7pm

Training Dates for Autumn 2022

More dates to follow for 2023 as well as pre-recorded training options

  • Face to Face Workshop 9-5pm Monday 31st October (Cheshire & Merseyside venue tbc)

  • Live Online Workshop 9-1pm Wednesday 16th November 2022 AND 9-1pm Friday 18th November 2022

  • Face to Face Workshop 9-5pm Friday 2nd December 2022 (Cheshire & Merseyside venue tbc)

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