How Storytelling Circles Combat Anxiety

Last December, as COVID-19 cases spiked and travel restrictions tightened, Deborah Goldstein and her 85-year-old mother journeyed to a faraway forest in Scotland.

There, instead of political pundits and dooming newsfeeds, they met an animal-loving teenager, her evil stepmother, and 12 magical elves. In two weeks, they’ll travel somewhere else—without leaving their Manhattan apartments.

That far-off destination in Scotland was the setting of one story told in the free, virtual circle that Goldstein, her mother, and dozens of others join every other Thursday. Hosted by the New York Society for Ethical Culture—one of many groups creating online spaces to share stories—the circle gives credence to a growing body of research connecting storytelling to prof…