Documents & Audiences

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Uncategorised | 58 comments

Narrative practices have a rich history of creating and sharing documents and engaging audiences. Here we look at a number of different ways of doing this!

Image from Shaun Tan’s book – The Red Tree

One of the early defining characteristics of narrative therapy was the creative use of documentation or the written word.

In this video presentation, David Newman describes the ways in which he is using living documents with young people in an inpatient ward.   

Further reading:

Here is an earlier paper by David Newman describing his use of the written work within narrative therapeutic practice: Rescuing the said from the saying of it by David Newman

 


 

This paper illustrates how we can use four different categories of document. Examples of each of the following documents are offered and the author also shares some of his experiences, dilemmas and learnings in creating therapeutic documentation.

Letters recording a session

Documents of knowledge and affirmation

News documents &

Documents to contribute to rites of passage

Using Therapeutic Documents Hugh Fox 

 


 

Ncazelo Nucbe-Mlilo is a Zimbabwean psychologist and narrative therapist living and working in South Africa. Here, she introduces the ‘Narratives in the suitcase’ project which seeks to use journey metaphors and creative documentation to assist child refugees.

This work is inspired by the work of Glynis Clacherty and The Suitcase Project (see link below). It also draws upon ideas from Sherri Osborn.

 

 


 

In this paper we read responses to the following 8 questions.

1. What is meant by the term outsider witness?

2. Why is it important for there to be witnesses to preferred stories?

3. What is the history of these ideas and ways of working?

4. What are definitional ceremonies?

5. What sort of responses do outsider witnesses make?

6. What are some of the common hazards of outsider-witness practice and how can these be avoided? Do you have any helpful hints about these?

7. What are the different contexts in which outsider-witness work takes place?

8. What do you enjoy most about outsider-witness practices?

Marilyn O’Neill, Hugh Fox, Gaye Stockell, Anne Schober, Jeff Zimmerman, Emily Sued & Dirk Kotzé all provided material which Maggie Carey, Shona Russell compiled and which David Denborough’s editing and writing brought together in the following article.

Outsider Witness Practices Paper 


 

 

 

For Reflection

 

What forms of documentation might be most relevant or resonant in your context?

 

Are there particular ideas or practices you found within these materials you might draw on in your future meetings with people?

 


 

Have any of these questions got you hooked? Have you got another question you would like to pose to those joining you in this online learning? Please let us know below! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks!


58 Comments

  1. What forms of documentation might be most relevant or resonant in your context?
    As I work with refugees, I found Glynis Clacherty and The Suitcase Project particularly relevant to my practice. Due to language barriers – I find that art and play therapy are versions of documentation or expressive mediums that resonate with these individuals. Through this creative expression, they are able to tell their stories, acknowledge trauma and work toward a sense of safety, meaning and connection.

    As all of the clients I see are from refugee backgrounds and have made long and arduous journeys to a foreign land, I feel that using the suitcase metaphor may be empowering in acknowledging their resilience, identity and sacrifices.

  2. I am logging in from from Manitoba,Canada.
    I really like the writing notes in form of letters. I am not sure I could intergrade into my current practice as the “official document” but am interested in learning how the individuals I work would respond to this.
    I offer Dignity Therapy to patients I work with during the end of life. Dignity therapy involves an interview about life history, and then turning this into a legacy document for patients to gift to their loved ones at the end of life. this story telling helps patients to define and refine what their ultimate story is. In my experience this has been a very rewarding process for both the dying patient the loved ones.

  3. I am sharing from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia.

    In grief work documentation is often used in the form of Memory Books are created by the person who is grieving to to tell the story of the person they have lose; in the form of programs that are used to record a ritual the grieving person has created to honor the person they have lost (to create closure to the experience of having that person in their lives); and also in the form of letters addressed the the person they have lost describing how they are feeling and telling the person who has died how the person writing the letter is adapting to life without them.

    Outsider witnessing could be used to offer the grieving person an opportunity to tell the story of the person they have lost and have their grief witnessed, acknowledged and honored.

  4. For me, I think that I will need to think about this particular part of Narrative Therapy a lot more. In my practice, I have previously been hesitant to write/co-write and sign documents with the client. Documents of achievement or knowledge frighten me a little, particularly when holding in mind if notes are legally requested. In those cases we are presented with the difficulty that a signed document by us as clinicians may hold implications in court (e.g. “William is a good father and loves his children” being used in family court as evidence to retrieve children from Child Safety). As I said, it is something that I need to think more on before I start using in session.

    In regards to the outsider-witness, I believe that it will be useful later in therapy, but historically, I have tried to encourage persons in session to approach those they wanted to share the information with on their own volition and share the information themselves and then reflect back in session on how they went. In this way I hope to avoid clinician dependence and build the clients independence and pride, however I can see how that may be a more harsh and hard process compared to the outsider-witness pathway. The exception to this is parents attending sessions with children as, in this case, the parent is the main attachment that has the power to help facilitate the flow of information.

    As I have said, I will have to think more on this lesson and whether it will fit with how I can provide my interventions. It may be that I can get the client to self generate and sign these documents themselves and use me as a sounding board and to use me as an audience to the experience. A very interesting concept though.

  5. Some of the things that resonated with me were, regardless of the form documentation takes, to ensure ‘recognition’ ie. using language that represents the unique voice of the participant, but also translate the spoken word so it is ‘perusable’. The suitcase metaphor was extremely powerful and set me to think about other creative metaphors for practice. The idea of sharing these documents resonates with my work in therapeutic life writing – making stories available for others to gain benefit, and the concept of allowing others to add to the document would make for an excellent group exercise to thicken the life stories of others.
    The materials on outsider-witness practices were very thought-provoking and allowed me to consider how involving outsider-witnesses in the life writing process may lead to a deeper exploration and recording of alternative life stories. Narrative therapy and life writing align as both are working with stories and both ultimately have an audience.

  6. As I reflect on written documents that I have created with clients I recall a report I wrote for a client (who had suffered hideous childhood trauma) to the institution responsible for his care at the time,. When I showed it to him for his approval before I sent it he wept and said that it was so validating to have someone understand that he had suffered, that I really got what he was telling me and this showed him. I feel I had forgotten the power of this document and Hugh Fox’s article has reminded me, I am grateful.

  7. I found David Newman’s video a bit challenging to watch, as there were too many distractions (unbuttoned shirt, shaky camera, weird close-ups, speech nerves, crooked posture) to focus on the content. It put me off using documentation as a therapy tool. The paper was easier to comprehend, and I now have a better understanding of different document options.
    When an audience, or random person participates in the session, it can be a remarkable reminder of how connected we all are. I seen unbelievable results with this powerful method.
    The suitcase project is inspiring and important work for children.

  8. I found the description of outsider witnesses to be most helpful, particularly the questions one of the witnesses used to keep themselves focused. Also, adding the examples of documents into his article “Rescuing the said from the saying of it”, David Newman clearly illustrated the variety and depth with which we can help people express their thoughts and share those thoughts with their care team.

  9. I loved the Suitcase Project and think this may be useful to our work with former refugee communities, in helping them to identify and express their strengths and hopes for their future in Australia.

    I also found the outsider witness article very helpful in terms of raising my awareness of the value of acknowledging people’s stories as they seek to define their preferred identities

  10. I loved the Suitcase Project and think this may be useful to our work with former refugee communities, in helping them to identify and express their strengths and hopes for their future in Australia.

    I also found the outsider witness article very helpful in terms of raising my awareness of the value of acknowledging people’s stories as they seek to define their preferred identities.

  11. What forms of documentation might be most relevant or resonant in your context?

    From the time I was introduced to Narrative Therapy and through my coursework, readings and research on it, one of my biggest concerns is the documentation. I find myself concerned that I may become so wrapped up in keeping track of what a person is saying to me that I may miss very valuable information. I have found this chapter to be most helpful in opening my eyes not only to different methods of documentation, but also to encourage me to stay focused (the questions listed by the ‘outsider witness’ as a way to keep them focused during a session is very useful) and to know I will need to make time to review what I’ve written, adding anything else of importance as soon after the session as possible. I’m hopeful that over time and with practice, this will no longer be a concern.

    Are there particular ideas or practices you found within these materials you might draw on in your future meetings with people?

    I loved the suitcase and feel it may be very useful in working, not only with children, but those who yearn to explore their childhood as well.

  12. I loved the Suitcase project, such a potent way to engage children (adults too, if need be) in an expressive rendering of hope and faith.

    The act of generating documents crystallizes the significance of making real or concretizing personal experience which may sometimes feel ephemeral, or might be relegated to the realm of the imagination (where someone will feel/be made to feel that they’ve magnified the problem).

    It is heartening to see how many roles outside witnesses can play in the narrative journey. This ‘Greek chorus’ feels like a microcosm of a functional family and/or community that provides a powerful support along the path to healing.

    Thanks for all these thought-provoking clips and resources!

  13. I am interested in the Suitcases metaphor and plan to use an adaptation of it in my professional supervision sessions with supervisees.

    I like the concept of Outside Witness practice and have used it in a simplified form with children, such as having their teacher and/or parent witness the child’s explanation of “the problem” and their plans for change etc. A similar process often happens in group work where group members support each other and are witness to growth and progress. However, I would be cautious about confidentiality and the possible future relationship / well-being of those involved if considering introducing service users to each other.

  14. There are many types of documents that i think that would be relevant depending on the client. I have written letters to younger clients using their own words which they have loved and treasured, however i really like the idea of collaboratively writing case notes and rescuing the words that strengthen and build their preferred story. I also like the idea of turning what was said into a poem with young adults who feel they don’t have a voice or choice in life.

    I bought a scrap book many years ago as a live document for children to write how they overcome their hurdles in life however, i find that kids just want to be included and have their page, rather then see how other kids have overcome their hurdles. I think it makes them feel important and apart of something special.

    In the future i will definitely draw on the Narratives in the suitcase project. I think the journey metaphor not only fits with child refugee but would also be helpful for children who have had a difficult beginning where i can help them to rescue the ‘good’ along a path that they have mostly seen as gloomy.

  15. Hi,

    It took me a long time to appreciate people’s desire for getting certificates after participating in theatre- and arts-workshops I am facilitating. However, in the last year I have started transforming these certificates into pictures or drawings we made throughout the workshop with the possibility of writing ‘messages of love and kindness’ on the backs. I have experienced it as a very connecting and empowering way to end a workshop, but not close a community – and it resonates a lot with me when I read about certificates prepared for ‘the rite of passage’.

    Also, as I am working a lot with people who are marginalized, silenced, ignored or stereotyped in dominant stories, re-writing and owning ones’ stories has become a powerful tool – and so has publishing, respectively performing. In the jorney of creating alternative and supportive stories, I am sure the idea of the suitcase as described by Ncazelo Nucbe-Mlilo can and will be very helpful. In addition, I loved to read about outsider witness-practice. I haven’t thought about my workshops in this way, but we do a lot of storytelling and listening with compassion, so I’m excited to enrich these sessions with the ideas and possibilities of outsider witnesses.

    Thank you!

    Julia from Kathmandu, Nepal

  16. In my field of work working alongside women and children who have experienced and been traumatised by domestic and family violence I found ” Narratives in a Suitcase” a very inspiring tool. In fact I had many years ago volunteered in a Mapping Journey session as part of my Bachelor’s studies. Although at first I felt quite ” naked and vulnerable” as this was done witnessed by my class mates, I found it a very powerful “journey” of my life at the time.In fact remembering back to the time and ” My Journey”, some of the main goals and dreams have come true, although at the time they felt distant and out of reach. I also remember some of my class mates in tears as they heard my story and contributed by encouraging me overcome challenges I faced. Great tool to use as a process. I love how Ncazelo Nucbe-Mlilo describes ” Everyone has a suitcase of one kind – suitcases are important in life”

    I was also inspired of Hugh Fox’s “using therapeutic documents”, especially ” Letters recording a session”, which I endeavor to write to a women I support in her process of escaping domestic and family violence and reclaiming her identity.

    What I captured out of David Newman’s presentation which guide me to reflect on my own ” narrative approach” are: skills of LISTENING, skills of EDITING and most importantly – skills for COLLABORATION.

  17. This section of the material really got my excited and thinking about documentation in ways I have NEVER thought before. David Newman’s video as well as his article is really inspiring; and transformed documentation from a workplace requirement to a powerful, creative therapeutic tool. Thinking about the “creative range of Documentation’ has a head spinning a bit.
    What forms of documentation might be most relevant in your context? Are there particular ideas or practices you found within these materials you might draw on in your future meetings wit people
    There are three relevant forms of documentation that I found in this section that I would like to play with in my own practice:
    a) The idea of letters recording sessions and how David highlights how this method ‘honors how people would want to be talked about’ which I think I can easily lose sight of and case notes before a required portion of my job rather then another layer of the therapeutic process.
    b) The ideas Hugh Fox presented on Documents of Knowledge (something I plan to play with, with a client this week), using them with client who are “in danger of losing sight of their preferred identities” (Pg. 30, Fox).
    c) The Documents of rite of passage as a way of ending therapy and using this is a forum to highlight ‘successfully negotiated transition’. I work with very marginalized clients, who have complicated attachment styles so I am always trying to find ways to make closures a positive for them and have a letter/document to assist in this process and be something at they can keep is powerful.

  18. Deborah, Hong Kong

    The article on living documentation written by David Newman seems incredible useful in working with adopted children. At the end of the article he writes, “I wonder what you would have to say about your use of documentation to link people to their networks, to have significant messages or knowledges as more enduring, to build living double-sided documents around certain themes or in many other ways”. I realize the use of living documents could be life-giving to adopted teenagers, as they often feel so alone despite the fact they are often surrounded by loving parents and supportive siblings and adults. An adopted child may often feel misunderstood, which is understandable as he or she may be the only adopted person within a family unit. Having messages from other adopted teens would be an encouragement, but also a link to someone who truly has walked the road of adoption.

  19. Hi, I’m Susie, from London UK. I work with people who have an experience of psychosis in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.

    Using therapeutic documents – I’m struck by the idea that I have an advantage because I re-read the notes before each session! Would my work be more effective if the client got to read these notes each session too? I put a lot of effort into my notes and they’re really helpful for me, can this effort be of more use to my clients than just for future staff who might be working with them? Can they also be really helpful for my clients? Could I easily change my case notes into therapeutic letters? How would this work? To be given to the client at some point in the session? I could try this with a new client and see how it goes? Sounds like he posts the letter after the session. David N talked about emails, could I email therapeutic letter/case notes following sessions? I also wonder if using all my case notes as therapeutic letters will improve my practice in expressing my wonderings about the unconscious in a way that makes sense to the client and is respectful to their experience, and free me up from the ethical worry I sometimes get about this? Important to negotiate about the letters/emails before sending “Where will the letter be kept? When will it be read? How often would it be good to read it? Who should read it? And so on. This avoids what has been called ‘the hallstand drawer phenomenon’”.

  20. I reacently posted a coment on this chapter, but forgot to put what would be the most usefull ways of documentation I could use with people in my own context, and here they are: I this that all of theme are important, but to start I would go for those who describe littles thrives on people’s daily life, due to the fact that this letters encourage people and bring them out with a lot of motivation.

    After, I would go for those who tells people about how they have come to an other state of life, and how they reclaimed their lifes from problems influence. It is a big diploma!!.

    And the futuristic ones: Telling which actions are going to be considered in order to get rid of problem influence.

  21. I found this chapter very interesting! This, because of the usage of the therapeutic documents, in counselling context. At the same time I was reading this chapter, I was reading other book too about this same topic, and in it I found very interesting statements about the using of documents in therapy, and how this idea was brought to the narrative practices.

    The mind idea is that documentation always has been an importan vehicle to ”add” seriousness and respect to human deals and relatios. For instance, when a couple get married, a document is considered very importan to legitimize the union. When a lawyer comes with an arrest order to someone house’s the situation becomes more intriguin , and at last, if I buy a house or a car, I will want a ”paper” that states this good is mine.

    Coming back to our talk, it is very intelligent how authors of narrative practices noticed that, and included that way of legitimize into the counselling context. I like a lot how this way of work can improve therapeutic process, cutting the number of sessins used to deal with people’s problems.

    On the other hand, the way of working with audiences is wonderfull! I liked a lot the quote saying: Within witness audiences people may be seen in their own terms! I found further more interesting the analysis laying under this witness practice. Not replicate the relations of power people may come with, instead looking always out for the unexpected outcomes in order to thicken stories.

    I also loved how the outsider witness practices document give hints on how to procced within the usage of this practice, and ways in how ”not to”: Not applaud, one of the most important, I think.

  22. Hi, there. I think that an outsider witness is a powerfull tool to solve teenagers problems. If you can hear the hidden story in what kids say, they will be able to recognise it, to see the positive part of the situation. If they are worried about the privacy they can do this procese with some teachers they trust. If we build trusting and healthy relationships, privacy won´t be a problem at all. The more we share our problems, the more we notice that many people are suffering like us. And that can open a world to common solutions.
    Written letters have been a great help at school, to encourage kids to improve their performance.
    There is a Cossettini school in Cordoba, Argentina, that has been using an old suitcase with narratives from the students and the teachers. You can feel the school traveling in that suitcase. You can know the school experience by reading what the suitcase shows.
    I´d like to experience a definitional ceremony. It seams to be a very innovative and profound procese.
    Thank you so much for sharing all these to us.

  23. This section certainly has me thinking about necessary useful documentation. I work with families with children with special needs and our organization documents notes on each meeting that are on carbon copy paper, so the parents receive one copy and the worker another. This allows the family much more authorship in their goals and meanings. I am, however, wanting to reflect this authorship even further. I think I need to negotiate much more about what is writen to allow for more generative formats instead of simply checking in with parents after I have created an idea whether the strategy is feasible or makes sense to them.

    Additionally, I work with a First Nations Mikmaq community in Canada. Traditionally a very oral, storytelling culture, I feel like having legal paperwork (such as consent and partnership agreements) and “homework” to be read and tried to be imposing an “expert” opinion coming from me, as opposed to the parents and child. Sometimes I feel like I’m writing a prescription! I am very curious to start thinking about, and experimenting around, how to make the documentation maximally useful, while still holding accountability for myself as a worker. I am also very intrigued by the idea of circulating learning. I feel like this would be a beautiful way to connect parents and bring sustainable hope for support and change in the community. I am also curious how meaning can be circulated in a way that is more in line with oral traditions. Maybe parents could create a collective story that could be performed or a song that can be passed around and lines added to to create something both collaborative, and representative of local strengths, stories and traditions.

  24. These ideas about how we use documentation/the written word within narrative therapy have been on my mind quite a bit lately. I am an MSW student who has recently started a practicum on a narrative therapy team. We are located within a publicly funded health care setting and as such, have specific requirements for documentation. I am keen to include a strong presence of the voices of those who consult me. I am also very interested to explore the usefulness of therapeutic letters, and perhaps creative expression with the written word. I appreciate the presenters’ examples of what they have found useful in their work with people.

  25. I loved this section. The creative range of possibilities for ways to use documentation and outsider witnessing is very exciting to me – just as Phillipa Johnson says in her conclusion.

    Last week, I had to give a presentation to another tutor’s class, and I was pretty stuck trying to think of how to do this. It was the end of their course, and I couldn’t think what I could bring to the class that was new to them. After reading here about documentation, I thought I would try structuring the presentation in a way that encouraged them to think in a particularly personal way about their coursework, and write a kind of personal manifesto over the course of the presentation. This was very much a first effort at doing something like this, for me. I think some students got more out of it than others, and I can see ways I could do it differently next time. But I felt okay about it overall. I got feedback from the other tutor afterwards that she’d been dubious when I first told her what I was planning – but that she thought it actually worked well, and that the personal, reflective aspect made it ideal for their final class.

    My mind is now buzzing with ways I could incorporate some of the ideas from this section in my other work!

    I do find the whole concept of outsider witnessing to be hugely appealing. I was also really moved by the story in an earlier part of the course about the man who had been ‘taken’ by a social worker when he was younger – and how choosing and bringing in an outsider witness who had insight into this from a social worker’s perspective made such a huge difference to the man’s life and story.

    Lastly – I wish there was a ‘like’ button on the comments so I could acknowledge some other people’s comments in a simple way! 🙂

  26. This section reminded me of the wonderful Friday afternoon video from a few weeks ago from Mohammed Fareez that centered around the ‘life certificate’. I thought this was a great way to incorporate narrative ideas in working with grief.

    I have always been a great believer in the power of the written word in releasing emotions. I have kept many journals over the years throughout many difficult times and situations. Personally, I like the idea that someone one day may come across my writing, many people are worried about their privacy, I often suggest writing and burning/ripping up the paper or typing, reading then deleting or sending yourself a SMS message then deleting it. There are also many ways to ‘secure’ a document on a computer.

    I loved the idea of the suitcase and believe that this idea could be used in a lot of different circumstances (with little twists to suit the group). One that springs to mind would be working with inmates both adult and juvenile.

    http://dulwichcentre.com.au/the-life-certificate-a-narrative-framework-in-working-with-grief-and-loss-by-mohamed-fareez/

    • I so agree about the therapeutic power of writing. (I got rid of the longest-running panic attack I’ve ever had – many years ago – by writing it out … You remind me that maybe I should try doing that with the lesser anxiety attacks I sometimes have now.) You’ve also inspired me to start listening to the Friday Afternoon Videos …

  27. This chapter had me reflecting on the best way to document appointments with clients. I currently am required to complete case notes after appointments but am deeply considering how letters and documents of knowledge could be incorporated. I also could see the value in living documents which clients could author their experiences, skills and knowledge to be shared with others. I am also considering how the written documents I complete could represent more closely the spoken word of the client.

    Australia

  28. I liked the concept of documents of knowledge to facilitate rites of passage, specifically the end of therapy. it gives the client further benefit of consolidating all the knowledge and skills developed over the course of therapy in order to share with others in a similar predicament. This meaningful record adds to the book of knowledge and is testimony to the growth and learning acquired. Thus marking termination as an important achievement and not only to be experienced as loss.
    Loved Ncazelo’s Narratives in a suitcase – especially the creative journey metaphors – a springboard for various art therapy directives to facilitate rich artwork and storytelling to bring healing & insight.
    Singapore

  29. As a lawyer (until last July!), “documentation” resonated with me and it was exciting to see different ways to document and several purposes in doing so. “Post session” letters, for example, provide a way for the conversation to continue, a mutual conversation/reflection. Where the client co-authors the letter, some power and control are given to the client. There is also some flexibility, including bringing others into the conversation. All great fodder for practice. It also aligned with my practice as a lawyer where I sought to create a space for the client to be part of framing the solution, seeking not to act as the expert unless required.
    The idea of “outside-witness practices” brings me back to participating in reflecting teams as a counselling student and how powerful they were. How wonderful it would be if we could adopt these practices more widely in our lives. It is interesting to ponder on some of the cautions, e.g., “what are some of the common hazards of outsider-witness practice and how can these be avoided” in the paper: and how these are so relevant to our everyday conversations in both our personal and work lives: avoiding applause, stepping out of giving advice, building teamwork, taking care with how much I talk, getting carried away with my own story, taking care in relation to not imposing values, thinking about what to listen for, confidentiality and privacy.
    Brisbane, Australia

  30. The narratives in a suitcase is very usefull for me as an occupational therapist. I work with all kind of materials and in this context I can do this with adult patients. Ncazelo enthousiasm infected me, I could not wait to try it. Afterwards my enthousiasm has growed, also the patients evaluated it as a helpfull session.
    So therefor: thank you Ncazelo.

  31. I am writing from Perth, Western Australia.

    I like the idea of recording a session with a letter and documents of knowledge and affirmations.

    “But the words in a letter don’t fade and disappear the way conversation does; they endure through time and space, bearing witness to the work of therapy and immortalizing it.”

    This quote from Hugh Fox reading really protruded for me and made me reflect on the many times clients have said they easily forgot their conclusions and learnings in a session.
    Often when someone is experiencing depression when negative thoughts are automatic, clients can easily forget to focus on their knowledge, learnings and affirmations.

    I think using documents will also be beneficial for helping clients to identify themes and cycles in their life.

    I am looking forward to using documents of knowledge and affirmations with my client group, almost like a coping card.

  32. This material was all really fabulous. Thank you! In my setting I think I could make more use of letters as in Hugh Fox’s paper, especially after reading that they were rated to be as useful as several sessions. I feel a bit daunted, as I don’t feel that document writing is my strong point but I think it would become easier with time. The suitcase metaphor also seems like a great way to open up hopeful conversations with young people. I would love to be part of outside witness practice but in my setting that would be the most difficult logistically.
    I work in Brisbane, Australia

  33. I found this chapter really mind opening, having the opportunity to think broadly and expansively about documentation and how it can be used to strengthening clients stories. My thoughts were triggered watching Ncazelo Nucbe-Mlilo’s video on ‘narratives in suitcases’ as I work with children who are in a sense also on the move, they are children who are accompanying their mothers to stay in a women’s shelter escaping domestic violence. The stories of these children are often not expressed so I will be putting thought into how through my work I can empower some of these children to re-author their dominant story through the use of documentation. Thank you for the great materials.

  34. I’ve found it really useful to re-engage with the use of Therapeutic documents and audiences and have thoroughly enjoyed this chapter in the series.
    I particularly liked David Newman’s presentation and the idea of using therapeutic letters as the actual file note along with using letters to collaborate with outsider witnesses by asking a series of questions for their input.
    I also found the article by Hugh Fox useful, particularly his ideas in constructing a narrative letter for recording a session, as this is probably the area that I would mostly use letters to do. Also the use of ‘documents of rite of passage’ at the end of therapy provides some great ideas.
    It has certainly left me with a new energy for the use of therapeutic documents and I found Hugh Fox’s evidence for their effectiveness very encouraging.
    Thank you.

  35. In this moment I’m in Newcastle, Australia but I’m from Italy.
    There are two main points that caught my attention in this chapter. The first on a practical level is the “Narrative in the suitcase”. It is a beautiful project that I would like to use with groups of adults. The metaphor of the suitcase and the dimension of the “play” can be a very powerful tool for adults too.
    The second point is the outsider witness practice. I found this practice extremely interesting. In my context, the main practices privilege the one-to-one rapport, in other words the exclusive relationship between therapist and client. The introduction of witnesses in this relationship is a way to make the therapy more effective and to extend its effects, because the entire world of the person can be concretely involved.

  36. I have had some clients who already bring in their own journal and use it to refer to in their discussion during a session. They also write down interesting insights gained in the session and thought-provoking questions that I have asked, that they wish to later reflect on.
    This section on documentation has made me more aware that what is said in sessions can be ephemeral, in that it may become lost in all that has been discussed or may become harder to recall for the client after they have left. Very often I am the only one who has written documentation of their story, their hopes, their intentions, and their insights. I would like more of my clients to leave the session with something written that supports in black and white, the development of the alternative story they are working towards. I am also interested in supporting documentation with photos, either taken or chosen by the client and using these photos as an aid to discussion and to thicken their preferred story.

  37. Good afternoon!
    Thank you so much for providing this valuable learning material.
    I highly enjoy the videos.
    Please find below my answers to your questions.
    Love to all

    What forms of documentation might be most relevant or resonant in your context?
    I find it very useful, too, to work with quotes and metaphors both famous ones as well as the ones co-composed by the client and by me that reflect the content of a session.
    Paintings can also help to document a conversation.

    Are there particular ideas or practices you found within these materials you might draw on in your future meetings with people?
    Team coaching with the help of reflective teams / outsider witnesses for example
    – to find solutions in conflict situations
    – to generate new ideas
    – to open for new possibilities that did not exist before
    – to give feedback
    – to harmonize relations
    – to promote dialogue
    – etc….

  38. I’m really grateful for this course – it’s articulating some practices that are ‘outside of the box’ that I have always thought made sense but didn’t know anyone who was using them – like the letter writing and more creative documentation. I really loved that paper and feel I’ve got ‘permission’ to use these ways of working with others. How often have I seen a teenager or an adult who has been to a counsellor for weeks and when I ask what are they doing together, what have they learned about themselves, they say “I don’t know” – this documentation is something I’ll use more now as I transition to private practice although I’m going to try to use it in my casework more as well. I once made a certificate for a mum who successfully stopped breastfeeding (this had been her goal – to get her breasts back”) and I was overwhelmed with how surprised and delighted she was when she got it in the mail. I’d meant it to be a bit playful but to her it meant so much more.

  39. I believe that the witness of positive change helps to fix the result, which is achieved by therapist and interviewee. It is important to reinforce the progress by letters, plans and documentation of achievements. This allows people to visually assess a progress and stay on the same level

  40. It was such a relief to learn about actual experiences of outside witnesses and peer-to-peer collaboration. I have been inclined towards a similar idea for a few years now but I was moving instinctively, following my intuition, and I know that quite a few colleagues from my home country would disagree with the idea. However, I found that I want to build a (so far) small community where my clients’ stories can be validated, their experiences can be seen, their strength and efforts acknowledged. I am now thinking about a project for Russian-speaking immigrants who, wilfully or not, have moved or are moving to other countries. Immigration in itself is a challenging process that makes you question your choices, values and identity. I feel that having such a community, even if in form of written documents for now, would be of help.

  41. The practice of “Living Documents” in a “healing” process is a new and wonderful concept for me but the process itself is not. While studying Film and Television Direction in Berlin, Germany I read several works from André Bazin. He postulated that us film makers all had a “Mummy Complex” because we sort to embalm the moment be it photography, sculpture or moving pictures. “Rescuing the said from the saying of it” seems to me to be part of that human endeavour/need to preserve. We don’t want our skills and knowledges to fly by and be forgotten. Just as a Filmmaker wishes to preserve and be an outside witness to a scene so too, does a Narrative Therapist endeavour through “Living Documents” to bare witness and preserve. However, it is not only about preservation. As I think of those plasticised cards bearing testimony to a persons skills for dealing with their problems I can see how that plastic comes to life – the person takes it out of their wallet and is reassured of what was and can use it to shape their future – it becomes here and now and very much alive.
    I was very moved from the section about “Narratives in a Suitcase”that said, the children need to know that they have a suitcase full of treasure what a challenging job Ncazelo Nucbe-Mlilo does.

    Let me say how much I enjoy seeing and hearing Phillipa Johnson at the beginning and end of each fascinating module. Feels like I could be there in Australia settling down for a cup of tea in the garden and a contemplative chat.

  42. I am a person trying to make a transition from what is ‘the client group’. Reflecting on Ms Nucbo-Milo’s talk about the suitcase project inspires hope. Lots of issues here with whanau [wider family] engaged in prostitution, for me. And dealing with adult victims of trauma, of which this prostitution one source.

    Tho’ i am well skilled- and experienced out here, in the field, still feeling a sense of ‘not belonging’. Will the teaching and, in part the “narrative community” fill the gap? These settings have not always worked for me… but I increasingly sense the presence of wounded healers within the ranks. And, in a broader sense, the woundedness of all healers… and how this helps… thanks…

  43. The role of the outsider witness is strong and meaningful. When outsider witnesses are those with similar experiences, they are a living reminder that the person is not going it alone. When outsider witnesses relate elements of the person’s story to their own lives, they legitimise the person’s experience, transform the person from victim to expert, and emphasise the “no fault” position of the person in relation to the problem.

    Using documentation such as emails and letters is an excellent way to link people with outsider witnesses who are not physically present during therapy conversations. The use of certificates as documents is fascinating. The recipient may choose to go home and display their certificate in a prominent place which can then invite future conversations around the certificate and what it means, thereby increasing the number of outsider witnesses and enabling the celebration of their achievement to continue.

    The idea that a document can be anything – from an email to a suitcase – is incredibly freeing. I was involved in a project that involved participants of a community-centre-based English conversation class participating in a cooking demonstration for the local community. Each participant prepared a favourite recipe from their country of origin and, with the help of the English conversation class facilitator, told the story of why they had chosen to make their dish, why it was significant to them. Then we all shared the food. Later we made a recipe book from that day, which also included the contributors’ stories. Through this module I now know that the recipe book stands as the documentation of that experience, and I have been able to reflect how meaningful that book would have been (and may still be) for the participants, most of who were recent arrivals to Australia.

  44. While listening to the videos and reading the documents, I was wondering about which form of documentation might be appropriate in career counseling. Working with migrants I have found the “Narrative suitcases” particularly inspiring to tackle a problem I often face in my work. The people I meet bring “tattered” stories with them, many of them experience their life as utterly divided into a “before” and an “after” the journey. This cut is often a profound scar that blocks the development of actions and dream about the future.
    I also find documents of acknowledge and ceremonies as useful tools in my contest.

  45. I have used therapeutic documents in the form of a letter typically given at the end of my time with someone. I have received very positive feedback from everyone that I have written a letter to mostly expressing that they can return to the letter when they feel that they may need some reminders or reassurances of their strengths and resiliency. I now am interested to try other forms of documentation that I have learned in this chapter.

  46. Hello,

    Thank you for another brilliant chapter. I have in the past used letters to children and young people I have worked with as a document of our meetings that is more accessible to them than a full formal report. Lettera also give a very tangible way of reinforcing the positives that have come out of a meeting.

    I really loved the suitcase work developed by Ncazelo and is another resource I will keep in mind to use in the future. I also loved the pictorial my journey and it reminds me of an intervention called MAPS I use here in the UK to explore elements of children and young people’s lives.

    The outsider witness is very interesting work. When I trained (as an Educational Psychologist) we did a lot of reflecting team work and it was very powerful.

    Thank you again for such an interesting chapter and the 3 very interesting papers included. I will look forward to the next chapter. 🙂

  47. In my given context, living documents will certainly be relevant. In a collectivistic society like the one I come from, involving the community in the therapeutic process will not only be welcomed but will also help reduce stigma around the process of therapy. Letters recording the session will also be highly relevant in my context given how therapy is often considered vague and nothing concrete to take away from. These letters will not only serve as reminders of the session but will also become a concrete recording for the client to keep.

    Since my current practice is in a school setting, I have been highly intrigued and fascinated by the concept of Outsider-Witnesses. Knowing how common certain concerns experienced y students are, I would like to start inviting students to be outsider-witnesses. With students, I will have to go over their role clearly and will have to be certain as a therapist of how I want to proceed with them in the session. I was wondering if there are any specific resources on engaging students (middle school and high school) as outsider witnesses?

    Looking forward to the next Chapter! 🙂

    • Hi there Lamia,

      Its wonderful to hear that these ideas have been relevant to you and a little bit about where you might take them!

      Here is a link to a paper which might respond to your question about resources on engaging students as outsider witnesses.. A part of the abstract says:

      “We show how the school counsellor and a selected group of students co‐author a new story through a carefully structured series of meetings, and we use real life examples to show how these changes occur”.
      Keywords: bullying, schools, Undercover Teams, narrative therapy, outsider‐witnesses, definitional ceremony

      I hope it might be helpful in some way to your project!

      http://dulwichcentre.com.au/explorations-2010-1-michael-williams.pdf

      Warmly, Phillipa

  48. How wonderful to be able to assist people not only by the spoken word,but by the written word also,something I certainly didn’t get to do as a nurse.The written word is powerful indeed,how many of us are affected by reading a particularly moving story or a beautiful poem? I particularly enjoyed the ‘rescuing of what is generative and meaningful-expressions in speech that are vivid, poetic,hopeful’.Words that can be an aside/a ‘throw away’ comment, and how those words can be rescued,pulled out and emphasised.

  49. In our graduate program, we currently use reflecting teams as outsider witnesses in sessions. Each student therapist must request something of themselves, their co-therapist, the supervisors, and the reflecting team. The materials in this lesson have been very instrumental in guiding what I may ask of the R/T in upcoming sessions.

  50. Wow. I’m really intrigued about using documentation in these creative ways! I have on several occasions realized that I have for some clients, a book of their psychological worlds–their experiences, thoughts, feelings and insights, and that I’m the wrong person to have this record! How does it make sense that I or my organization should have these notes, but the people with whom I’m working do not?

    I’m very interested in the letters, the laminated cards and think I could use them both in my work as a therapist. I’m also really fascinated by the idea of an outsider witness and believe that they could be extraordinarily powerful for people. I’m not quite sure about confidentiality and how that would work here in the US, and I also wonder how it would feel for clients, as its so far from the “norm” here as well. But I will continue to think on this for sure.

    I also really enjoyed learning about The Suitcase Project, as I work with refugees (but not children). I will keep that in my back pocket as well 🙂

  51. I am currently in the process of working on a lyric writing course, working with young people with Mental Health issues. Aside from the lyrics themselves, this section has allowed me to question what other forms of documentation/validation might be possible along the way. I love the idea of a shared book of knowledge where the student can all contribute thoughts to a document that sums up their experiences.

    Also I am looking to work with group therapy in my squash coaching, this feel more difficult to incorporate but I think that a personal document summing up on one side the physiological and technical skills gained, and on the other side the emotional, spiritual and psychological skills would make for powerful reading 🙂

    • Jas your project sounds exciting! You might find David Denborough’s work on community song writing interesting as you embark on this work.. Here he writes that “in some contexts, the written word is not accessible to all, whereas songs and music can include most people in any community. There can be room for everyone to either sing or play the rhythm sticks or hold the lyrics up for others to read during the recording process. And perhaps most significantly, with a good melody, songs can remain in one’s mind, available for instant recall in a way that the written word cannot”. You can find his full paper on Community Song Writing and Narrative Practice here..

      http://dulwichcentre.com.au/articles-about-narrative-therapy/community-song-writing/

      Warmly, Phillipa

  52. I found the practice of outsider witnesses appealing. There is a greater audience affirming the person’s positive narrative. It is so different from intervention in that the witnesses are not telling their story, rather they’re hearing the story of the subject.

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