2007: Issue 2

2007-no-2Dear Reader,

This special issue contains papers related to the theme ‘Experience Consultants’, which is a term we only recently came across during preparations for the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference which is to be held in Norway this year. Each paper in the first section of this journal has been written by those with insider knowledge of particularly complex experiences. Their perspectives and ideas offer challenges to the field.

Ellen Walnum, who is the author of the lead paper in this issue, is a Norwegian woman with the experience of growing up with a mother who had psychiatric difficulties. She has also had the experience of a mental health crisis. Determined to put these experiences to work for the benefit of others, Ellen is now employed as an Experience Consultant working with professionals, with mothers who have psychiatric difficulties and with their children. Her paper describes some of the key skills involved in the work of Experience Consultants. It also offers a vision for re-thinking mental health services as partnerships built on a combination of ‘professional knowledge’ and ‘experience knowledge’.

The second paper, by Turid Foss, describes the experience of a therapist who experienced psychosis and was hospitalised as a result. Turid’s experiences of her time on the ward have led to her questioning many taken-for-granted practices. This paper is a powerful invitation to all mental health practitioners to think differently about how we respond to those in crisis, to acknowledge the support and care offered between ‘patients’ within psychiatric wards, and to question and dismantle the artificial separation between ‘professionals’ and ‘those who experience mental health difficulties’. It’s also an invitation to health professionals who have experienced psychiatric crises to speak out about these and the learnings which they have brought.

The third paper, by Odd Volden, invites the reader to reconceptualise mental health crises as cultural experiences, to move mental health issues back into the realm of culture and community and in doing so to strengthen some of the valued traditions of our respective cultures. This is a powerful invitation with significant implications.

The journal then changes tack with two papers by authors who have experiences within complex realms of culture and belonging. Sissel Wilmena Daabous conveys ‘Stories of pride and survival: From the Romany people’ and provides ideas for anyone trying to develop ways of working that are culturally appropriate to their own people. And Leonie Simmons, who was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family relates stories of her journey back to the place of her birth. In the process, she deconstructs taken-for-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home.

A further paper generated from personal and collective experience is by Mary Heath and is titled ‘Up the steep side of the queer learning curve: Some things I’ve learned about sex, gender and sexuality’. It’s likely that readers will never think of sexual or gender identities in quite the same way after reading this piece.

To complete this issue, we have included two papers on the theme of re-thinking formal clinical paperwork and assessment. William Madsen offers a range of ideas and suggestions as to ways of working within traditional structures that support a collaborative clinical practice. While Mim Weber explores constraints, dilemmas and opportunities in relation to ways in which narrative ideas can inform assessment processes in relation to ‘eating disorders’.

This is a journal issue which we hope you will enjoy and also one which we hope will challenge and provoke your thinking and practice.

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


 

  • Sharing Stories: The Work of an Experience Consultant— Ellen Walnum

    $9.90

    This paper introduces the concept of Experience Consultant. Ellen Walnum is a Norwegian woman with the experience of growing up with a mother who had psychiatric difficulties. She has also had the experience of a mental health crisis. Determined to put these experiences to work for the benefit of others, Ellen is now employed as an Experience Consultant working with professionals, with mothers who have psychiatric difficulties and with their children. This paper describes some of the key skills involved in the work of Experience Consultants. It also offers a vision for re-thinking mental health services as partnerships built on a combination of ‘professional knowledge’ and ‘experience knowledge’. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.


  • Struggling for Dignity in a Time of Crisis— Turid Foss

    $5.50

    This paper describes the experience of a therapist who experienced psychosis and was hospitalised as a result. Turid’s experiences of her time on the ward have led to her questioning many taken-forgranted practices. This paper is a powerful invitation to all mental health practitioners to think differently about how we respond to those in crisis, to acknowledge the support and care offered between ‘patients’ within psychiatric wards, and to question and dismantle the artificial separation between ‘professionals’ and ‘those who experience mental health difficulties’. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.


  • Returning Mental Health Issues to the Realm of Culture and Community— Odd Volden

    $5.50

    Within Norway, as in many countries, there is a long history of people who have experienced mental health difficulties taking action to try to change the ways in which mental health struggles are understood and responded to. In this paper, Odd Volden traces the history of such actions within Norway. He also invites the reader to reconceptualise mental health crises as cultural experiences, to move mental health issues back into the realm of culture and community and, in doing so, to strengthen some of the valued traditions of our respective cultures. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.


  • Stories of Pride and Survival: From the Romany People— Sissel Wilmena Daabous

    $5.50

    In this evocative paper, Sissel Wilmena Daabous conveys some of the history of the Romany people (sometimes known as Travellers) and their rich skills of survival. This paper also describes Sissel’s attempts to develop ways of working with her people which are based on Romany culture, values, and skills, and which will be relevant to any practitioner who is interested in developing ways of working that are appropriate to their own culture and context. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.


  • Stories about Home— Leonie Simmons

    $9.90

    Leonie Simmons was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago she returned to the place of her birth. This thoughtful and carefully written paper describes her journey and her efforts to deconstruct takenfor-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home. It will be of relevance to anyone interested in ways of making home and making family as well as to those connected to the issue of inter-country adoption.


  • Up the Steep Side of the Queer Learning Curve: Some Things I’ve Learned about Sex, Gender and Sexuality— Mary Heath

    $9.90

    This article uses stories about everyday life to explore ideas about sex, gender and sexuality. It questions the dominant idea that there are only two sexes and two genders, and that sex should always be congruent with gender, drawing on queer theory – and intersex and transgendered people’s life stories. It also examines the challenges bisexuality and queer theory present to dominant ideas about sexuality, proposing that there are more than two sexualities, and that sexuality can change depending on time, circumstances, and other factors. The author suggests that people who believe that their own sex and gender are uncontroversial have much to learn from paying thorough attention to the richness of human diversity rather than accepting the dominant two-sex, two-gender story. She suggests that refusing to accept the limitations of the accepted accounts of sex, gender and sexuality opens the way to exciting conversations on these subjects. These conversations, and the social change which they are making possible, have much to offer to people who fit within the dominant models of sex, gender and sexuality as well as those whose lives are currently erased and denigrated by them.


  • Working with Traditional Structures to Support a Collaborative Clinical Practice— William Madsen

    $9.90

    This paper explores how to meet requirements for formal clinical paperwork in a way that is based on an ethic of collaboration and accountability. Using this approach, traditional clinical paperwork at the stages of ‘assessment’, ‘treatment planning’, and the ‘termination process’, – documents which previously could have been objectifying and further pathologising of people – can instead become collaboratively-produced therapeutic documents. This paper also explores some of the real effects of the current requirements for documentation and measurement, and suggests that practitioners should ‘take care to measure what is valuable rather than simply valuing what is measurable’.


  • Narrative Therapy, ‘Eating Disorders’, and Assessment: Exploring Constraints, Dilemmas, and Opportunities— Mim Weber

    $9.90

    This paper is a work in progress. It is an exploration of the usefulness of an eating disorders assessment and referral service to the people who consult it; and whether such a service can avoid practices which could be experienced as reinforcing of the eating disorder, pathologising, or blaming. It also looks at the possibility of working with narrative therapy ideas in an environment which does not necessarily subscribe to those ideas.