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Mark S. Konecky, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist
Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychology
6 Hodgkins Street
Gloucester, MA 01930


The JoJo Dolphin Enrichment Project:
Therapeutic Story Telling Intervention Proposal


To provide an enrichment-oriented educational experience that enables children and adults to gain a sense of self-agency or empowerment by identifying with the portrayal of reciprocal helping behavior and attachment in a loving relationship between a dolphin and a human being.

To help children and adults understand that injuries (physical, spiritual, and emotional) can heal with proper care, instilling a sense of hopefulness for the future.

To present children and adults with 1) a basic outline of important environmental concepts such as the basic biology and physiology of dolphins and humans; 2) the idea of a “web” of life in which all animals and people are interdependent and connected; 3) the concepts of conservation and preservation while maintaining focus on humans and their culture; and 4) the notion of consciousness and emotion in animals and humans.

Facilitators will use lecture and a therapeutic story telling intervention to accomplish these goals. Participants will be presented with an oral story depicting the relationship between Dean Bernal and his dolphin friend JoJo as well as view the story of Dean and JoJo’s relationship as portrayed in a DVD produced by The JoJo Dolphin Project.

Background of the Problem for Children

Children growing up in the late 20th and early 21st century have been subjected to unprecedented levels of stress and insecurity. The events of 9/11/01, the subsequent focus on domestic terrorism, as well as the associated military actions seem to have increased their anxiety and insecurity. Parents, teachers, and clinicians have observed that children report and show signs of increased anxiety and insecurity, feelings of dread, and feelings of hopelessness about their ability to be safe in the world. Children seem to have questions about who can be helpful to them as they strive to grow and find security and safety in our increasingly chaotic world. Some children even seem to express their own insecurity by making other children feel unsafe or insecure.

Children have questions about their own resourcefulness in the face of threats to their security and safety. Parents, teachers, and clinicians have reported that an increasing number of children report or seem to have concerns about self-confidence, self-esteem, and about their ability to create change and safety in their environment.

One way of intervening to help children negotiate these dilemmas involves therapeutic story telling. Story telling, as old as human culture itself, involves the transfer of information crucial for the adaptation of human beings in their complex social and natural environments. Therapeutic story telling involves a process of active learning in which children are drawn by facilitators to certain aspects of a narrative for a therapeutic purpose.

In this project, children will be drawn to a number of important meanings in the JoJo and Dean narrative. Among the topics children will be encouraged to consider:

--How Dean helped JoJo when he was a juvenile dolphin.

--JoJo’s response to the loss of his family in a stranding as well as his last two remaining dolphin relatives to a boat strike and an accidental spearing.

--JoJo’s ability to learn confidence and survival skills from Dean, a human.

--JoJo’s ability to show Dean aspects of his underwater world through their experience together.

--Dean’s ability to teach other humans about how to interact with JoJo without threatening him unintentionally.

--Dean’s feelings about JoJo’s injuries from boat strikes and shark attacks.

--JoJo’s feelings about his own injuries.

--JoJo’s trust in Dean in allowing him to administer antibiotics and medical treatment to him and his ability to heal from his wounds.

--Dean working to protect JoJo’s habitat from unrestrained boat traffic in order to ensure the safety of JoJo and other ocean creatures.

--JoJo’s protection of Dean from a dangerous shark attack.

--JoJo’s sense of humor.

--The importance of having children help JoJo and the human population by protecting their environment through conservation.

--The reciprocal, trusting and loving relationship between Dean and JoJo, how they actively help each other with their problems, and what we can learn about all relationships from Dean and JoJo.

Background of the Problem for Adults

Many adults also experience a disruption in the development of their sense of personal agency or empowerment. Many adults feel powerless to affect their environment, other important people, themselves, or their health. Maladies such as depression, medical illness, domestic violence or emotional abuse, substance abuse, relationship conflict, and dissatisfaction with work often involve a disruption in a person’s sense of agency. That is, people with these difficulties often feel that they cannot change themselves or their situations.

The narrative of JoJo and Dean provides an illustration of the following themes that can be discussed and emphasized in a therapeutically oriented story telling presentation for adults:

--Dean was able to overcome a great deal of resistance from the human population in order to establish legal protection for JoJo.

--JoJo’s ability to heal from his physical wounds and maintain a trusting and affectionate relationship with all humans despite being injured by humans.

--JoJo’s ability to manipulate his world and his experience by establishing a trusting and loving relationship with Dean.

--JoJo’s possible self-consciousness as evidenced by his sense of humor, self-recognition in the mirror, and the ability to play “hide and seek” with Dean.

--The reciprocal, trusting and loving relationship between Dean and JoJo, how they actively help each other with their problems, and what we can learn about all relationships from Dean and JoJo.

Target Population

This therapeutic story-telling intervention was designed to have a broad application. Of course, all individuals might benefit from a thoughtful intervention in which active helping behaviors, personal empowerment or agency, and humanitarian and conservation actions are considered. However, the JoJo and Dean story has many profound subtleties that increase the possibilities for therapeutic action.

Medical or emotional illness of any kind, whether chronic or acute, challenges our ability to feel hopeful about the healing process. Sometimes we have difficulty accepting our helpers and the healing they offer because we have doubts about our own power to heal.

JoJo and Dean illustrate that profound healing (physical and spiritual) can take place as long as a trusting and caring relationship is maintained between the helper and the individual receiving the help. The JoJo and Dean story also illustrates how JoJo accesses powerful capacities for healing in the context of a trusting, helping relationship with Dean.

Populations that may be particularly well-served by this story-telling intervention include children suffering from medical illnesses, such as cancer and burns, in which they must endure great pain and uncomfortable long-term treatment. JoJo’s many physical injuries, which are documented in the oral story as well as on the DVD, heal because of Dean’s help and JoJo’s will and ability to remain a wild, self-sufficient animal, despite his injuries. Chronically and acutely ill children suffering from medical illness may well identify with JoJo’s power to heal his own wounds and resume an active life. Identifying with JoJo, may provide children with an internal image that will increase their own sense of power and self-determination in the face of potentially overwhelming illness or injury.


Participants will be provided with a 15-minute interactive lecture in which the following topics will be discussed.

  1. Overview of the JoJo and Dean Story and the Therapeutic Story Telling Intervention.
  2. Basic Dolphin and Human Anatomy and Physiology.
    1. Shared dolphin and human mammalian characteristics.
      1. warm-blooded/homeothermic.
      2. live-young are breast fed milk
      3. large brain.
      4. social organization.
      5. communication.
      6. culture and learning.
      7. rearing young/children through cooperation of family group.
      8. emotions in humans and higher mammals and possibility of self-consciousness in dolphins.

    2. Dolphin Physiology/Human Physiology
      1. dive reflex/apnea.
      2. sonar/echolocation.
      3. chirps, whistles, squeaks, signature whistles, and human speech.

  3. JoJo and Dean’s story will be told orally, and important elements of the DVD narrative will be highlighted as noted above. (The story is told in about 7 minutes.)
  4. Participants will then screen the DVD. (The DVD takes about 7 minutes.)
  5. Participants will then be led in a discussion by facilitators about their reactions to the DVD. Attention will be paid to helping participants note important aspects of the story as discussed above. (About 5-10 minutes.)
  6. Participants will be given paper and colored pencils and crayons and will be asked to create a set of three drawings in which they depict either an actual or imaginary experience in which they help a human, animal, or the environment; or in which they were helped by another human, animal, or the environment or both. They will be asked to structure their drawings as follows:
    1. The first picture should introduce and depict the characters in their story.
    2. The second picture should depict the problem the characters face.
    3. The third picture should depict how the problem was solved and how the help was given.
  7. Participants will then be asked to voluntarily show their drawings and tell their stories to the group. Facilitators will help focus the discussion around concerns and questions such as how the characters depicted in the story felt before they faced the problem? Was help asked for directly or was help given intuitively? How did the characters feel when they faced the problem? How did they feel when they were helping and being helped? How did the characters feel when the problem was resolved? (This activity (drawing and story telling) takes about 30-25 minutes.)
  8. The group will close with a discussion of their overall reactions to the therapeutic story telling intervention and ways to improve the presentation in the future. Participants will also be asked to come up with ways in which they might be able to help JoJo, other animals and humans, and/or the environment. (The program takes about one-hour and fifteen minutes from start to completion.)


Enrichment Program
Children and adult Therapy

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