"It's Like the Pieces of a Puzzle That You Know": Research Interviews With People Who Inject Drugs Using the VidaviewTM Life Story Board


  • John V. Flynn c/o Bruyère Research Institute
  • Claire E. Kendall Bruyere Research Institute
  • Lisa M. Boucher Bruyere Research Institute
  • Michael Louis Fitzgerald Bruyere Research Institute http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6554-172X
  • Katharine Larose-Hébert Laval University
  • Alana Martin Bruyère Research Institute
  • Christine Lalonde Bruyère Research Institute
  • Dave Pineau Bruyère Research Institute
  • Jenn Bigelow Bruyère Research Institute
  • Tiffany Rose Bruyère Research Institute
  • Rob Boyd Sandy Hill Community Health Centre
  • Mark Tyndall University of British Columbia
  • Zack Marshall McGill University




Life Story Board, qualitative research tool, research interviews, people who inject drugs, life experience narratives


The Life Story Board (LSB) is a visual tool used in therapeutic circumstances to co-construct a lifescape that represents the personal, relational and temporal aspects of a person's lived experiences. We conducted a study of the drug use and harm reduction experiences of people who inject drugs through research interviews using the LSB to determine whether it has the potential to enhance qualitative research. Our team included community researchers who were current or former drug users and academic researchers. Interviews were conducted by two community researchers: an interviewer and a storyboarder who populated the LSB.

Results showed that interviewers and participants interacted with the LSB in different ways. The board functioned to situate the interviewers in the interview schedule, whereas participants often used the board as a way to validate or reinforce their life story. Participants expressed a variety of emotional and cognitive responses to the board. Overall, the LSB helped participants focus on their life story to recall specific occasions or incidents and enabled them to gain perspective and make greater sense of their lives. Both participants and interviewers engaged with the LSB in nuanced ways that enabled them to work together to represent the participant's life story.


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Author Biographies

John V. Flynn, c/o Bruyère Research Institute

John V. FLYNN obtained his bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Ottawa in 2016, and earned a master's in social work and human rights at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden in 2018. He was a coordinator and researcher on the PROUD study, and was integrally involved in the authorship of the present article, leading the writing of the manuscript up until his untimely death in early 2019.

Claire E. Kendall, Bruyere Research Institute

Claire E. KENDALL is an associate professor with the Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa; clinician investigator at the C.T. Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre, Bruyère Research Institute; and a practicing family physician with the Bruyère Family Health Team. She is an adjunct scientist at ICES and in the Clinical Epidemiology Program at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Dr. KENDALL holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) – Ontario HIV Treatment Network New Investigator Award in the area of health services/population health HIV/AIDS health services research. She is principal investigator on the Advancing Primary Healthcare for People Living with HIV in Canada (LHIV), a $2.5 million interdisciplinary and transnational CIHR Team Grant. Dr. KENDALL is also principal investigator on the PROUD study. Her research relies on multiple methodologies, including secondary analysis of the health administrative data held at ICES, primary collected cohort survey data, qualitative methods, and the meaningful involvement of patients and people with lived experience.

Lisa M. Boucher, Bruyere Research Institute

Lisa M. BOUCHER is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, School of Epidemiology and Public Health, and trainee at the Bruyère Research Institute. She is a coordinator and researcher on the PROUD study. She is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Research Award: Priority Announcement – HIV/AIDS. In her research, she focuses on substance use, socioeconomic marginalization, and chronic health issues.

Michael Louis Fitzgerald, Bruyere Research Institute

Michael L FITZGERALD is a research associate at the CT Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre, Bruyère Research Institute in Ottawa.

Katharine Larose-Hébert, Laval University

Katharine LAROSE-HÉBERT is an adjunct professor in the School of Social Work and Criminology at the University of Laval. Her research includes work on the organization and supply of mental health services, harm reduction and substance use, and judicialization and diversion of marginalized populations.

Alana Martin, Bruyère Research Institute

Alana MARTIN is a community support worker at Somerset West Community Health Centre and harm reduction worker at Centretown Community Health Centre. She is a community research coordinator on the PROUD study.

Christine Lalonde, Bruyère Research Institute

Christine LALONDE is a community researcher with the PROUD Community Advisory Committee.

Dave Pineau, Bruyère Research Institute

Dave PINEAU is a community researcher with the PROUD Community Advisory Committee.

Jenn Bigelow, Bruyère Research Institute

Jenn BIGELOW is a community researcher with the PROUD Community Advisory Committee.

Tiffany Rose, Bruyère Research Institute

Tiffany ROSE is a community researcher with the PROUD Community Advisory Committee.

Rob Boyd, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre

Rob BOYD is the director of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre's OASIS program, which provides harm reduction based health and social services (including HIV and Hepatitis C treatment) for people who use drugs who experience barriers to health and recovery due to stigma, poverty, criminalization and mental illness.

Mark Tyndall, University of British Columbia

Mark TYNDALL is a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on public health and disadvantaged populations. His current interests include addiction, poverty, homelessness, drug overdose, drug policy, and harm reduction including supervised injection sites, regulated drug distribution and nicotine harm reduction (e-cigarettes/vaping).

Zack Marshall, McGill University

Zack MARSHALL is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at McGill University. Building on a history of community work in the areas of HIV, harm reduction, and mental health, he explores interdisciplinary connections between public engagement, knowledge production, and research ethics.




How to Cite

Flynn, J. V., Kendall, C. E., Boucher, L. M., Fitzgerald, M. L., Larose-Hébert, K., Martin, A., … Marshall, Z. (2020). "It’s Like the Pieces of a Puzzle That You Know": Research Interviews With People Who Inject Drugs Using the VidaviewTM Life Story Board. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-21.3.3459



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