What is guided autobiography?

Guided Autobiography (GAB) is a method to help people document their life stories. It was developed by Dr. James Birren, a gerontologist from the University of Southern California.

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.

Although it is true each week an average of 800 words is written, it is not a literature course. The emphasis is not on style or grammar but on remembering lived moments. Each person can tell their life story not only through writing, but also by adding other artistic expressions, such as painting, photography, music, crafts.

Guided autobiography benefits people of all ages. Especially people in a transition period (job change, children leaving home, a death of someone close, retirement, COVID, etc.), start a new phase in their life or seek a new direction in their path.

The course can be offered in modules of six to eight weeks.

Program offered

Each course lasts six weeks, the hours indicated are in ET (Ottawa time)
Course Cost: $150 Dollars Canadian Paypal

Your Guides

Bio Alicia Borisonik

Alicia is an Argentine who does not know how to dance tango. Her passions are the birds, the animals of Costa Rica, meditation, and the complexities of human behavior.

Alicia left Argentina in 1994 and now lives in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada.

She is a music therapist graduated from the Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since she arrived in Canada, she has developed a career as a composer, music educator and musician. She plays the accordion and the piano, she was also the singer, composer and arranger of her band: "ALICIA BORISONIK AND THE ARGENTINEAN PROJECT" with which she recorded two CDs: Esa locura de vivir y Busco un lugar ".

In Canada, Alicia created a series of workshops and courses about the music of Latin America. These workshops were and are offered in schools in Ontario, Yukon and Quebec and in various community centers and local museums.

Alicia currently works for the Bronson Center, Ottawa, Canada as an artistic coordinator in programs for older adults.

In 2021 she received a GAB (Guided Auto Biography) instructor from the Birren Center for Autobiographical Studies in California, USA. Co-creator of Guided Autobiography in Spanish, launched in Canada.

Bio Camila Reimers

They say that Chile is a country of poets and that all its inhabitants want to be writers. I was born in Chile but left the country in 1975. I lived in Venezuela for five years and then came to Canada in 1980. It is in this country that I published my first novel. From that moment my work has also been published in Europe and Latin America. I have won recognized awards, including the International Latino Book Award in the United States eight times.

A graduate of the University of British Columbia in Language Arts, I combine literature with artisan work such as embroidery and loom. The characters in my novels talk through painting and dancing. In Canada I have been fortunate to work with immigrants, which has led me to cultivate two passions: writing and listening to their stories. People that in order to survive have crossed oceans, run away from wars and left language and traditions on their past.

In 2017 I was lucky enough to attend the program The Art of Stillness, at the Art Centre in Banff, Alberta, that confirmed the importance of creating not only with your mind but in the stillness that listens to the language of the heart.

To organize and developed Guided Autobiography together with Alicia has helped me understand what I want to deliver in the years that remain of my life. The opportunity to create immerse in the arts, motivate and work from the heart with the people that chooses to join us.

Gratitude. From our participants, in their words...

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Irene Ottawa, Canada

(Course taught by Helene Kauffman/Camila Reimers/Alicia Borisonik at the Bronson Centre)

…I am so sorry the course is coming to an end, I will miss it, this has been an experience that I will never forget, I was in a big depression at the time, (my doctor pointed it out to me), with the covid19 and the closed up, being alone in my apartment I didn't realize that it was happening. Then I heard of the Guided Autobiography Workshop. I decided to enroll on this marvelous course. This was the best and assertive decision I made, because this course has given me my life back, I feel a lot better now, my strength has returned to me little by little.  That is thanks to you and your team (Alicia and Camila), the GAB and to the Bronson Centre.

Jennifer Ottawa, Canada

(Course taught by Helene Kauffman/Camila Reimers/Alicia Borisonik at the Bronson Centre)

Thank you all for graciously guiding us through the GAB process. For me, the course was useful in helping me to revisit and reflect on past life experiences and to make connections that I missed earlier. It was also an enjoyable experience and a whole lot easier than I expected it to be. Once a prompt opened the faucet of memories and ideas, they started and continued to flow until I stepped in and stopped the steam! I learned a lot but there is still lots more to tap?

Fay Ottawa, Canada

(Course taught by Helene Kauffman/Camila Reimers/Alicia Borisonik at the Bronson Centre)

…Because of the program offered I was able to connect to my inner self and with others.  As a senior I am so grateful to have had this chance to have a meaningful voice for free.  Thank you.

Anne Ottawa, Canada

(Course taught by Helene Kauffman/Camila Reimers/Alicia Borisonik at the Bronson Centre)

 Alicia, thank you for your empathy, and effectiveness in leading our group. You do have a real talent for this. I felt the warmth and compassion you had for us. You made the course more worthwhile. Thank you, Alicia.

Additional Comments Ottawa, Canada

(Course taught by Helene Kauffman/Camila Reimers/Alicia Borisonik at the Bronson Centre)

“…The workshop offers a safe place to share thoughts, experiences, feelings that might not otherwise be accessed and revealed."

“…Listening with special care and attentiveness to others reading their pieces was a gift..”

“…The way that certain images and language became the signature of someone’s life was an intimate experience…”


“…a sense of fresh interpretations and more nuanced relations to people and places, and to oneself, a more clear-eyed acceptance of my various iterations over time…”

“…Saw myself as successful where I had believed I had failed before…”

“…I liked being given the direction & opportunity to focus in on specific themes, & writing the papers. It provided insight & understanding into life that we wouldn't have without it…”


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