2007: Issue 3
G’day and welcome to this issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work.
Before introducing the papers that appear in this issue, we would like to thank those readers who offered us feedback on the previous issue Experience Consultants. It seems that the papers in this last issue were very highly regarded by many who read them. We always welcome readers’ feedback. If the papers you read here bring enjoyment or irritation, challenge or frustration, we would be interested to hear your thoughts. Similarly, if there are particular topics that you would like to read more about, please let us know. Thanks!
We’re also keen to hear about your experiences of trying to engage with narrative practices in your own ways and contexts. In coming months, we hope to be publishing papers that represent a plurality of narrative practice. There are many different ways of engaging with a narrative metaphor within therapeutic and/or community practice. We are on the look-out for quirky and diverse forms of narrative practice.
This particular issue of the journal consists of papers from the USA, Bangladesh, Australia, UK, Norway and Canada. The diversity of countries is matched by a diversity of topics.
Eileen Hurley describes her use of narrative documents in work with young men in a US jail. Maksuda Begum conveys stories of her work in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which she speaks with children with disabilities and their mothers. An alternative intake questionnaire informed by narrative ideas, which was developed by David Denborough in collaboration with Maksuda Begum, is also included.
Due to requests from readers, we have then included two papers about the use of narrative practices in responding to eating issues. Shona Russell describes ways in which narrative conversations can contribute to a deconstruction of perfectionism, while Tracy Craggs and Alex Reed provide a novel account of therapy for anorexia.
The final section of this issue focuses on transgender experience and possibilities for practice. Jodi Aman provides an account of therapeutic work with a young person whose journey to gender belonging involved moving from identifying as a young woman, to identifying as a young man. Julie Tilsen, David Nylund and Lorraine Grieves then combine theoretical understandings with practice examples of conversations with lesbian women whose partners are transitioning from female to male gender identities. While Aya Okumura documents the stories of male to female transgender journeys of getting through tough times. Significantly, Aya also provides a framework of questions that practitioners could use in a range of other counselling or therapeutic contexts. This section is then completed with a reflection by Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad, an influential Norwegian bi-gender doctor.
We hope the diversity of papers within this issue will spark thoughts and developments in your own practice. And we look forward to your feedback and suggestions.
Establishing Non-criminal Records— Eileen Hurley
This paper highlights the use of therapeutic letters and documents in working with young men in a US jail. Examples of documents generated for and with young men include those designed to summarise conversations, request an audience, bear witness, invite support, link lives, archive solution knowledges, share skills and knowledges, and perform ceremony and song.
Conversations with Children with Disabilities and Their Mothers— Maksuda Begum
This paper from Bangladesh presents an overview of narrative approaches to work with mothers and their children who have intellectual disabilities. In what can be traumatic contexts, this work is based on mothers’ and children’s skills, knowledges, values, and connections. Through the course of both individual and group work, blame and stigma are externalised, and the love and care mothers have for their children – as well as their children’s ‘special abilities’ – are brought more to the fore. This paper also presents an alternative intake questionnaire that can help to diminish the effects of pathologising language, and elicit accounts of care and connection.
Talking with Mothers and Children: An Intake Questionnaire
Developed by David Denborough (Dulwich Centre Institute of Community Practice) in conjunction with Maksuda Begum (Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation).
This questionnaire is designed as a supplementary intake tool. It has been developed in recognition of the particular experiences of mothers of children with disabilities. This intake tool has two purposes. Firstly, it enables the counsellor to learn about the particular skills and knowledge of mothers and children that can later become a focus for therapeutic conversations. Secondly, it is structured in a way that assists mothers to get in touch with their own skills and knowledges, and provides a healing way for the counsellor to respond.
Deconstructing Perfectionism: Narrative Conversations with Those Suffering from Eating Issues— Shona Russell
In this paper, I will discuss some of the narrative practices that have guided me in work with people suffering the effects of eating disorders. In preparing this paper, I have chosen to carefully review notes and transcripts of therapeutic conversations that span several years and which trace the journey of Katerina in her determination to reclaim her life from illness. I would like to acknowledge and thank Katerina for her significant contribution to our work together and for her willingness to share aspects of her life.
A Service-user and Therapist Reflect on Context, Difference, and Dialogue in a Therapy for Anorexia— Tracy Craggs and Alex Reed
This article was co-authored by the participants in a therapeutic process which occurred within a specialist eating disorders service in a hospital setting. One of us was seeking assistance in their struggle with anorexia, and the other was a therapist working in this field. In addition to our encounters in the therapy process, we share in common a background in research and an orientation towards postmodern research methodologies. We became interested in how this shared research interest might provide an additional resource towards creating new knowledges and change. Through a process of shared inquiry, we sought to explore, from our different positions, the therapeutic process that we were engaged in by attending to the different narratives that shaped our experiences, understandings and actions. In particular, the influence of the clinical context on our respective experiences of the therapeutic process was examined. Some tentative reflections are offered regarding the potentially fruitful inter-relationship between therapy and research activities, and the transformative potential of this kind of shared inquiry.
A Journey towards Gender Belonging: Adam’s Story— Jodi Aman
This paper summarises the journey of a sixteen-year-old young person who had felt displaced in the body of a somatic girl and now identifies as a young man. This has been a journey towards gender belonging. The information described in this paper was taken from a series of therapeutic conversations over an eight month period. Please note, that the use of pronouns and names within this paper may at times be confusing to the reader.
The Gender Binary: Theory and Lived Experience— Julie Tilsen, David Nylund, Lorraine Grieves
The acronym ‘GLBTQ’ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) is widely used to describe those individuals who inhabit spaces outside of the heteronormative standard. Yet the term ‘transgender’ is often not well understood and may be treated as an afterthought, if considered much at all. This paper focuses on interrogating the gender binary (male/female) which has created the context for gender transgression. Examples of deconstructing questions that highlight the social construction of gender and an examination of therapy with non-trans-identified partners of transmen are offered as ways to apply queer theory in an effort to expose the impact of the gender binary on people’s lives. Reflections from a queer-identified woman on her experiences as the partner of a transman are shared in response to this paper.
This purchase is accompanied by a free article:
Reflections— Lorraine Grieves
No Turning Back: Male to Female Transgender Journeys of Getting through Tough Times— Aya Okumura
Female-to-male transgendered people face many challenges during their journeys of gender transition. These challenges can be all the more complex if transgendered people are simultaneously negotiating complexities of culture as well as gender. But along with these challenges also come celebrations, connections, and community. This paper describes the stories of five Asian and Pacific Islander transgendered women, and offers some questions which narrative practitioners may find useful to help trace the histories of transgender people’s skills and knowledges in moving through their unique journey.
From Gender Dysphoria towards Gender Euphoria— Esben Esther Pirelli BenestadThis paper is a brief reflection on ‘No turning back: Male to female transgenders’ journeys of getting through tough times’ by Aya Okumura, and ‘The gender binary: Theory and lived experience’ by Julie Tilson, David Nylund and Lorraine Grieves. The author explores some of the effects of transgendered existence on partners and families, and wonders if we can move from concepts of ‘gender dysphoria’ to ‘gender euphoria’.