2008: Issue 2
It’s been just over two months since Michael White died and we would like to send our appreciation to all of you who have been in contact during this time.
We have held up the printing of this journal issue so that we include within it a special piece of writing by John Winslade and Lorraine Hedtke. John and Lorraine were present at Michael’s final workshop in San Diego. They were with Michael when he suffered a heart attack at a restaurant in the evening after this workshop, and they played significant roles in caring for friends and family from this moment until Michael died in a San Diego hospital a few days later. Their actions of care made a real difference to many people during this time. The piece included here has tried to balance family concerns in relation to privacy, with requests from many people who knew and cared about Michael who have specifically asked to know more about Michael’s last days. It is introduced with a short piece by David Epston.
In a future edition of this journal, we are planning on publishing a specially developed history of Michael White’s work and ideas. We will be developing this over the coming months.
You may have noticed that this journal edition is a little larger than usual. To compensate for the delay, we have tried to ensure that it includes a very rich diversity of thoughtful, practice-based papers.
The first of these, by Yishai Shalif and Rachel Paran, describes work they conducted in bomb shelters in Northern Israel during military conflict. It particularly focuses on creative responses to children living in traumatic circumstances.
The next section of the journal features two articles focusing on a complex area of work – responding to young men who have engaged in sexually abusive actions. Jackie Bateman and Nigel White from the UK, and Kate Hannan from Australia, describe the ways in which they use narrative practices in this context.
In the third section of the journal, Deidre Ikin conveys stories of her work with people wishing to make changes to drug and alcohol use. This paper includes a document created by a mother whose child had been removed from her care. This document, entitled, ‘The Rainbow document’, is an ‘insider’s’ guide for mothers and child protection workers to use to spark conversations in determining when conditions are right for children to return home.
The next paper to be included is by Kath Reid. Drawing on notions of ‘family as a verb’, her paper documents the work of a Queer Families project, which seeks to co-explore and richly-describe diverse meanings of ‘family’.
We would like to take the opportunity to once again thank people for their kindness and support in relation to Michael’s death. We’d also like to mention that the paper by John and Lorraine is an intimate portrayal of Michael’s last days. The authors have done their best to provide a respectful picture. We hope that offering this here will be helpful and relevant to readers. As always, we would very much welcome any responses you may have.
All of us here at Dulwich Centre.
Michael White: Fragments of an Event— John Winslade & Lorraine Hedtke with an introduction by David Epston
We present here fragments, reconstructed from memory, of Michael White’s last workshop. These fragments are interspersed with descriptions of events that took place in San Diego in the days leading up to Michael’s death. Our focus here is not on the medical details, nor on the private family stories, but on the task of recording Michael’s last efforts to teach. Our hope is to play a small part in allowing his words to continue to resonate.
Learning from Children and Adults in Times of War: Stories from the Bomb Shelters in the North of Israel— Yishai Shalif and Rachel Paran
This paper describes a three-day visit to Qiryat Shemoneh, a small city in northern Israel, which was affected by war in mid-2006. The authors describe some of their understandings of the effects of war trauma, including the negative impacts on people’s identities, the isolation of people from others, and the positioning of people as ‘helpless victims’. They then explore how to respond to war trauma and its effects while people are still living under fire. This is illustrated by transcripts of conversations with families and children. Finally, they explore how workers dealing with the effects of war can support themselves during this work.
The Use of Narrative Therapy to Allow the Emergence of Engagement— Jackie Bateman & Nigel White
This paper explores options for engaging young people who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviours, as well as inviting their family members into conversations about responsibility and safety. Several scenarios are provided that explore common themes in this work, as well as some of the diverse challenges that can be present, including denial that the abuse has occurred, how to host conversations respectfully, and how to continue to find entry points to difficult conversations with families and foster carers. The article also details how to develop Safe Care Plans, as well as ‘Helping Team Meetings’, two practices which the authors have found useful in working with sexual abuse committed by children and young people. The article ends with feedback letters from a young person and a family member who were involved in this process.
Stories from the Room of Many Colours: Ritual and Reclamation with People Wishing to Make Changes to Drug and Alcohol Use— Deidre Ikin
In this paper, Deidre Ikin describes her work in The Room of Many Colours, the location of group conversations with people migrating from a life dominated by alcohol and drugs. Drawing on some challenging therapeutic situations, Deidre first gives an account of using a definitional ceremony to respond to a particularly painful account of trauma near the end of one group meeting. She also describes the work of one woman in preparing the Rainbow document, an ‘insider’s’ guide for mothers and child protection workers to use in determining when conditions are right for children to return home. These practice-based accounts are followed by a discussion of ethics and orientation when working in relation to substance misuse and child protection.