2011: Issue 1
G’day. It has been a tumultuous start to the new year with floods and cyclones in Australia. Earthquakes in New Zealand, the devastation in Japan, and people’s uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. We hope you and your family and friends are safe wherever you may be.
Welcome to this first issue of the International Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2011. We continue to receive thoughtful and innovative papers in relation to the use of narrative practice in differing contexts.
This journal begins with a ground-breaking approach to therapy research which has been developed by Marit Løkken in Norway. We commonly receive questions about how research into therapy effectiveness can be conducted in ways that are congruent with narrative therapy principles. We believe this is one such example. The paper also includes moving descriptions of the ways individuals and families are reclaiming their lives from the effects of problems.
Two papers then follow about working with women who have experienced sexual assault. Feminism was one of the formative influences in the development of narrative therapy. It is therefore significant to be including here two papers informed by feminism about working with groups of women. The first, by Suet Lin (Shirley) Hung, describes work from Hong Kong. It details the necessity for facilitators to respond to themes that emerge in the course of collective practice. It also explores realms of cultural and gendered meaning. The second paper, by Ingrid Cologna, Rekha John, Tracy Johnson, describes an eight-week feminist, narrative, art therapy group which took place in Toronto, Canada.
The third section of this issue includes a paper by a white Australian therapist, Chris Dolman, about his work with Aboriginal families who are experiencing grief. The complexity of seeking to develop a ‘just therapy’ in this context is explored, and the use of re-membering conversations are highlighted. A reflection is then included from a senior Aboriginal narrative practitioner, Aunty Barbara Wingard.
Then follows a section on narrative practice and older age. There is relatively little literature available about the use of narrative therapy with older populations. Dafna Stern works as a social worker in a nursing home and has recently come into contact with narrative practice. Her paper ‘Narrative therapy at any age’ describes some of her key learnings as she endeavours to put narrative ideas into practice in this context.
Finally, we are pleased to include a moving document entitled ‘Special knowledge and stories about dementia’. KAGE Physical Theatre Company, in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Australia (Victoria), has recently developed a theatrical production in relation to Alzheimer’s and dementia. The production has been developed through a series of community forums in which collective narrative practices were used to elicit, richly describe and document special knowledge and stories about dementia. This paper includes insider-knowledge from the Alzheimer’s Australia (Victoria) advisory group in the hope that this will be of assistance to others. It has been compiled by David Denborough.
This journal issue is another diverse collection, with papers from Norway, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia. We hope you enjoy grappling with the ideas and traversing the stories that are included here and we look forward to receiving your feedback, reflections and ideas for future issues.
My Practice as Described by Those Who Consult Me— Marit E. Løkken
Clients’ experiences of conversations with therapists is a crucial issue, but one that is often not directly researched. Marit Løkken embarked on a research project that involved not only asking her clients about their experiences of therapy, but also involved developing the research project, and the questions asked, in consultation with those clients. This article describes this process, includes examples of some of the responses, and includes an interview structured as a definitional ceremony to record her reflections on these responses.
Collective Narrative Practice with Rape Victims in the Chinese Society of Hong Kong— Suet Lin (Shirley) Hung
This article presents an example of collective narrative practice with Chinese women who have experienced rape. In a cultural context where rape is an immense taboo and a source of shame, this group project linked individual women to the collective. The use of the Tree of Life methodology, re-authoring conversations, outsider witnesses, therapeutic letters and documents, and definitional ceremony, has richly described the knowledges and skills of these women which have helped them, and which could contribute to the lives of other women. In addition to acknowledging personal agency, the cultural dimension and social construction of sexual violence was exposed in local language and practice, and the power of dominant discourses was revealed and challenged.
The Road Trip— Ingrid Cologna, Rekha John, Tracy Johnson
The Road Trip is an eight-week feminist, narrative, art therapy group which maps members’ journeys of healing and transformation from the impacts of sexual assault. The authors describe various ‘stops’ and experiences that transpired along the way of the Trip from two different groups that made this expedition in 2008 and 2009. In addition to describing the groups, the authors discuss and include images of various resources that were a part of these journeys, as well as images of some of the art that was created.
Re-membering Reciprocal Relationships— Chris Dolman
Re-membering conversations are one of the key maps of narrative therapy practice. This article explores some interrelationships between re-membering conversations and the principles of Just Therapy, along with the other narrative practices of ‘the absent but implicit’ and regarding distress as testimony, enquiring about personal agency, and naming injustice. This interweaving of theory and practice is shown through work with Aboriginal people in Murray Bridge, a rural town in South Australia.
Bringing Lost Loved Ones into Our Conversations: Talking About Loss in Honouring Ways (a reflection on Chris Dolman’s Re-membering Reciprocal Relationships) by Barbara Wingard
Special Knowledge and Stories About Dementia— David Denborough
KAGE, in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, has recently developed a theatrical production in relation to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The show is called Sundowner. The production has been developed through a series of community forums in which collective narrative practices were used to elicit, richly describe, and document special knowledge and stories about dementia. This paper includes insider-knowledge about the experience of dementia and the experience of caring for people with dementia in the hope that this will be of assistance to others.