WholeStory Speech: Building Social and Communication Skills through Storytelling

STORY EMOTION SOCIAL THERAPY (SEST) Guide to Training Opportunities

Thank you for your interest in Story Emotion Social Therapy, the SEST methodology. To use SEST within your practice, you first participate in the Principal Training, which teaches you to use SEST with neurotypical children. Advanced Training provides you with the deeper knowledge to effectively use SEST with children with social learning, social emotional, and/or social anxiety issues. To apply to the Principal Training, please email [email protected] to receive an application. Or, simply feel free to contact me! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about SEST or these training courses.

Sincerely, Dr. Rochel Lieberman


The SEST Approach

SEST encourages individuals to more fully communicate about themselves, their thoughts, emotions, and desires through the medium of storytelling. SEST does not require strict adherence to a set of rules. Instead, it is a flexible approach, recognizing the “wholeness” of the individual and accepting individuals for who they are in the moment. The SEST practitioner guides them in and through that moment while encouraging more open and meaningful communication and skill development. Assumptions of ability—at any moment or level—are not part of SEST. Practitioners are taught to “see” the client as they come to a session, physically, emotionally, and holistically, and work together from that point of reference. Parents are an integral component of SEST and learn about storytelling alongside their children and ways to practice it together outside the therapy setting.

Two levels of SEST training

There are two levels of SEST training.

  • Principal Training teaches how to use the SEST approach and its materials with neurotypical children or adults. It is geared to helping a child who has weak social interpersonal skills, weak group dynamic skills, is shy or steers away from interpersonal involvement.
  • Advanced Training teachings and exercises are designed to help individuals who need more resounding social emotional support. These individuals may be diagnosed with SCD (social communication disorder), ASD Level 1 (autism spectrum disorder), with anxiety/social anxiety, or with no diagnostic label but who still struggle with social emotional understanding, learning, and integration. Advanced Training also teaches therapists how to work more holistically with parents/caregivers, prompting them to develop their own stronger listening and communication abilities so that the SEST practice is widely used and becomes meaningful to them and their family.

Principal Training consists of an in-depth textbook designed to teach the components of SEST and approximately three hours of self-paced video module training that ends with face-to-face (via video) small group training with Dr. Lieberman. This acts as a fidelity check of the practitioner’s understanding of the SEST approach. Upon completion, participants receive a Certificate of Training Level 1, which entitles them to use SEST with neurotypical children only.

This first level of training covers the basic concepts and principles of SEST, outlines story grammar and/or CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) techniques, and teaches the parts of a story, and how to use storytelling to encourage social emotional communication abilities and self-expression. Then, through 10 specific exercises, participants are given the teaching tools to use SEST within their practice with neurotypical children.

Principal Training Requirements, Fees, and Schedule

Requirements: you are a practicing SLP with at least 18 months of clinical practice in 1:1 settings with clients (either private practice or school-based work) and you are familiar with the basic tenets of CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). You agree to read and study the SEST textbook, complete the self-paced Principal Training video modules, and then schedule/participate in individual or small group face-to-face sessions with Dr. Lieberman to complete the program.

Fees: Total SEST Principal Training program fee: $1650. This includes:

  • SEST Principal Training videos for self-paced training and learning
  • SEST Principal Training: Therapist Guide and Curriculum Textbook
  • SEST individual/small group sessions with Dr. Lieberman (number varies but a minimum of 3 sessions)

Payment 1: A nonrefundable deposit of $150 is due at the time you are accepted for training. Payment is due within 5 days of the acceptance email date. If not received by then, the program space may be forfeited.

Payment 2: $900. This payment is due prior to the start of the program. This fee covers access to the video training modules and a copy of the SEST Principal Curriculum textbook. If not received by the first day of the program, your program space will be filled by someone else on the SEST Principal Training waiting list.

Payment 3: $600. This payment covers the video face-to-face individual or small group training sessions with Dr. Lieberman. It is due at the time Dr. Lieberman approves the training schedule. Upon successfully completing both parts of SEST Principal Training, a certificate of SEST Principal Training is awarded, and permission is granted to apply for the next level of training, Advanced Training, to be awarded SEST Certified Practitioner.

Dates: Acceptance for SEST Principal Training will be announced on January 15, 2024.

To apply to the Principal Training, please email [email protected] to receive an application.

Click here for the SEST WholeStory: Clinical Resources.