Instructor Training
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Become a
Guided Autobiography (GAB) Instructor

Complete the comprehensive training program
in just 8 online sessions

Taught by Cheryl Svensson, PhD


What is Guided Autobiography?

Guided Autobiography (GAB) has been researched and developed by Dr. James Birren over the past 30 years as a method for helping people document their life stories. Guided by a trained instructor, participants are led through themes and priming questions that evoke memories of events once known but filed away and seemingly forgotten. Each participant writes a two-page story on a particular theme each week, brings the story to class and reads it to a small group of receptive classmates. Writing and sharing life stories with others is an ideal way to find new meaning in life and to put life events into perspective. While connecting with one another on their journeys of self-discovery, participants feel enlivened by the group experience and gain a greater appreciation of their own lives and of the lives of others. GAB can be a powerful catalyst for improved self-esteem, self-confidence and communication within communities and within families.

For more information, send Cheryl an e-mail.

What will be covered

  • Throughout the program, you will learn by doing. You’ll write a two page life story on a given theme each week and you’ll read your story out loud to your classmates online.

  • You’ll also receive in-depth training on how to conduct your own Guided Autobiography courses. Each class session is 2 ½ hours in length providing you with a total of 25 hours of advanced instruction and group experience in the two courses.

Upon finishing the GAB Instructor Training Program, you’ll receive a certificate of completion signed by Dr. Birren and your instructor.

Your Instructors

Cheryl Svensson is anexperienced GAB instructor who have been working directly with James Birren for many years. Cheryl co-teaches college courses with Dr. Birren in the Autobiographical Studies Program at the University of Southern California’s (USC) School of Gerontology. You’ll actually hear about the GAB method from Dr. Birren himself via video. You can be assured that you’ll have a very experienced team to guide you on your journey of self discovery, and you’ll be well-qualified to teach the proven GAB method that is recognized throughout the world. In fact Dr. Birren and his team have traveled to many states and countries sharing the GAB vision and personally training GAB instructors. Now, with advanced online technology, we can bring this comprehensive training program to you right in your own home.

Online Instruction

The program is provided entirely online, so you will be completing it in the comfort of your own home. Classes will be instructed live through a user-friendly, interactive website. You will simply log onto the website at the appointed time, enter your assigned pin number and you’ll instantly be in class. In the interactive program you’ll be able to ask questions while engaging with the instructors and other students. The class sizes are limited so be sure to sign up early.

Technical Requirements

    In order for you to see and hear the instructors and other students, and for them to be able to see and hear you, you will need a few tools.

    1. Internet Access: You’ll need a computer with internet access.
    2. Headset: You will need a headset with a microphone, even if your computer already has speakers and a microphone built in. (The use of built in speakers without a headset causes excessive feedback noise when multiple participants are logged in to the online classroom.)
    3. Webcam: Finally, you’ll need a web camera. Some computers have webcams built in. If you do not have a webcam or headset, you can purchase them rather inexpensively from any electronics store and plug them into your computer. You may need to install software that is provided with headphones and webcams. This is a simple process that takes just a few minutes.

    Once you have these items, all you need to do is log onto our website at the designated time, enter a special pin number that will be assigned to you when you register, and you’ll instantly be in class and ready for training. The online experience is easy to follow and brings classmates together from wherever they are in the U.S.—or in the world—as if they were all sitting in the same room.

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Frequenty Asked Questions

How are the classes structured?

The first hour of each session will consist of an interactive lecture giving you step by step training on becoming a qualified GAB instructor. You’ll view the lecture and lecture materials online and you’ll be able to interact with the instructors to ask questions. You will see and hear other students and interact with them as well.

There will be a 15 minute break after the lecture. In the second part of the class, students will take turns reading their two-page life stories out loud to the rest of the group and receive feedback. This small, interactive group is a powerful component of Guided Autobiography in which members really get to know one another as they share their stories. When you become a GAB instructor, you will know first hand what the group experience is like from having gone through
it yourself.

What if I miss a class?

We encourage all participants to attend every class. However, each class lecture is recorded and will be posted on the website. If you do miss a class, you can access it at a time that is convenient for you so that you will not miss any of the training. The small group readings will not be recorded, due to confidentiality issues. So if you can’t make it to a class, your small group will miss you! If it does happen, do write your story for that week and have it available at the next scheduled class. If time permits, you will be able to read both of your stories in your group.

What is included with the training?

  1. You’ll participate in a comprehensive program comprising 25 hours of instruction by experienced Guided Autobiography trainer Cheryl Svensson.
  2. You’ll be using the 200-page textbook: Telling the Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren and Kathryn N. Cochran. You can order the book through Once you complete your online GAB training, this manual becomes an ideal reference that will guide you as you set up and conduct your first Guided Autobiography course.
  3. As a special bonus, you will receive the new DVD: Guided Autobiography in which James Birren will explain the process and GAB themes. This DVD will be an invaluable resource for you to review the GAB method as explained by the master himself, or for you to show in segments in your own GAB courses.
  4. Throughout the 10-sessions of training in the two courses, you’ll receive by email all of the handouts for teaching your own GAB courses. Upon completion of the courses, you’ll have all the handouts you’ll need for teaching your own GAB classes.
  5. In addition to the online class time, you’ll be able to email the instructors with any questions that may arise in between classes. All questions will be answered and, when appropriate, forwarded to other class members so that everyone learns as we go along.
  6. After you complete your training, the instructors will continue to provide support via email as you launch your own GAB course. This is a valuable resource that is not usually available with most training courses.
  7. Upon successfully finishing the GAB Instructor Training Program, you’ll receive a certificate of completion suitable for framing which confirms that you are a trained Guided Autobiography Instructor. The certificate is awarded by The Birren Autobiographical Studies Program and is personally signed by James Birren and your instructor, Cheryl Svensson.

How much can I earn as a GAB instructor?

Many instructors over the years have volunteered their services by teaching Guided Autobiography at no charge. If that is what you would like to do, it is certainly an option. However, as with most other courses taught within communities, GAB can, and has, been offered on a fee basis. The amount you charge to teach a GAB course is entirely up to you. One way to figure out what to charge is to look at the fees being charged for other courses taught in your community and then price your course accordingly. You can start by looking at the course offerings at your local community center.

You can also look into teaching the course at a local adult education center, community college or university. Many of them have Emeriti or Lifelong Learning programs for older adults, although GAB can be taught to any age group or even mixed age groups. Some schools pay their instructors, while other schools have only volunteer instructors. Check with the schools in your area to find out their policies.

Other possible venues for teaching a GAB course include churches, synagogues, libraries or organizations like the local historical society or a museum. Often you would teach the course at a set fee per participant and share the proceeds with the organization whose facilities you are using. The organizations are usually quite willing to help you promote your GAB course to their members.

Your GAB courses can also be tailored for special populations, such as cancer survivors, military veterans, prospective retirees, those in recovery, grandparents raising grandchildren or any group of people who share a common experience or interest.

If you are interested in teaching GAB for a part-time or full-time income, consider offering concurrent courses at several locations in your own area and in nearby communities. Interest in autobiographical writing courses increases primarily through word of mouth. People going through a GAB course find the experience so rewarding that they tell others about it. So you can expect enrollment to increase in your subsequent courses as members spread the word. It is also often the case that members do not want their GAB groups to end when the course ends. Providing GAB II courses for those who want to continue is another way of earning additional income.

These are just a few of the many ideas that will be provided in the GAB Instructor Training courses to help you launch your first GAB courses. Whether you wish to volunteer your time, or earn income from your efforts as a GAB instructor, you will be offering an invaluable service to people in your community.

What is the cost of the Program?

Our goal is to train instructors so that Guided Autobiography can be made available to as many people as possible. Through our growing network of highly trained GAB instructors, thousands worldwide have experienced the power of writing and sharing their life stories. The tuition for the 8-session Guided Autobiography Instructor Training Program, with all of the benefits listed above, has been set at $450.

Payments may be made safely with a credit or debit card through our secure PayPal service, the largest and most reliable online payment center in the world.

If you have any questions, or would like to register for a class, contact Cheryl Svensson at

We look forward to having you become one of our Guided Autobiography Instructors!