2013: Issue 1

ijntcw_2013_issue_1_coverWelcome to the first issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2013!

This issue begins with two papers from diverse contexts within Australia. The first shares stories from Christmas Island, where Poh Lin Lee works with asylum seekers and survivors of torture and trauma. The second shares creative ways of working developed in Aboriginal residential and other drugs services open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Both papers offer new ways of responding to social suffering and creative forms of narrative practice. The authors of these papers also presented their work at the recent 11th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference. It’s possible to watch a video of Poh Lin Lee’s presentations by clicking here

The second section focuses on considerations of cultural democracy and critical race theory and how these concepts and fields of knowledge can challenge and extend the field of narrative practice. The third section contains two papers about the use of narrative ideas within organisations.

Along the way, a delightful short story of practice from the UK is included, about returning the normalising gaze.

Once again, this is a diverse collection of thoughtful writings. We hope they are relevant and interesting to you in whatever context you may be reading them. We will look forward to hearing your thoughts about them.


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    Making now precious: narrative conversations with asylum seekers— Poh Lin Lee

    This paper explores bringing together a series of narrative principles and practices in response to those who are seeking asylum in Australia and also experiencing the consequences of torture and trauma. This work is a description of ongoing coresearch with asylum seekers into conversations that can be meaningful in a context of unpredictability and instability. This invitational approach makes way for rich alternative story development, re-membering conversations, and bringing to light moments that sustain and nurture through hardship. This work emphasises an approach of ‘making now precious’ by creating pathways for narrative conversations to be carried in nomadic, transportable ways in the hearts of people as they face the long tumultuous journey of seeking asylum, safety and belonging.


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    Finding the ‘voice’ to speak: Women and men talk about relationships— Dion Anderson, Bea Edwards, Mark Hammersley, Marnie Sather and Greg Smith

    Winja Ulupna (‘women’s haven’) is an Aboriginal residential alcohol and other drug service for women. Galiamble (‘dry place on a hill’), the equivalent service for men. These services are open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Winja Ulupna and Galiamble are services of Ngwala Willumbong (‘dry place’) Cooperative. Based in an Aboriginal service, narrative group work was used to assist women and men talk about relationships, in a safe and positive manner. Exchanges of collective documents between the groups led to joint readings and song. The women reported positive developments in attitudes and support provided by men at the service. The men reported improved understanding of the circumstances of the women and improvements in the quality of relationships with their partners. The article provides a case study of one approach to supporting positive developments in relationships in Aboriginal settings. The approach may also be relevant to non-Aboriginal settings. Also included are a series of reflections, responses and critiques from experienced Aboriginal health workers.


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    Reflections on conversations which ‘returned the normalising gaze’— Peter Ord and Rosemary

    Normal is a word that has a history in geometry that was applied as a measure of human functioning early in the 19th Century. As has been noted elsewhere the concepts of normal and normality have become taken-for-granted ideas within western culture as if they have an existence independent from their historical and cultural origins. The effects of the ‘normalising gaze’ have been widely studied. This paper is a description of a therapeutic encounter in which conversations were shared which ‘turned the spotlight back on the normalising gaze’. These conversations were shared by Peter and Rosemary. This paper has been written with the hope that other people (both therapists and those consulting therapists) can be inspired to find their own ways to expose and have some fun while returning the normalising gaze.


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    Cultural Democracy: Politicizing and historicizing the adoption of narrative practices in the Americas— marcela polanco

    Many practices of narrative therapy have spread widely around the world when adopted by practitioners of diverse cultures. In this paper, I present a personal reflection on my attempts at politicising and historicising the adoption of narrative therapy into my local culture. In a spirit of cultural democracy, I depart from acknowledging my own heritage of mestizaje, including the history of colonisation of Latin America. Following, I briefly present three phases as possible preparations for the initial arrival of narrative therapy to my culture and subsequent dialogue among cultures: a) adopting a decolonial critical stance; b) foreignising narrative practices; and c) facilitating cultural agency. I illustrate my attempts at dialoging with the foreign term externalisation to translate/reimagine its decolonial version in my local culture.


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    Working with African American clients using narrative therapy: An Operational Citizenship and Critical Race Theory framework— Jocelyn DeVance Taliaferro, Willa J. Casstevens & Jessica T. DeCuir Gunby

    Operational citizenship has a place in multicultural counselling, particularly when White therapists counsel African American clients. This article suggests that the intersection of critical race theory and narrative therapy can lead to operational citizenship within the therapeutic relationship, which can generalise beyond that relationship into the larger environment. A clinical case study regarding an African American man is presented. Through the case study, concepts of this model are explicated. The authors provide implications for practice.


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    A narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning in community organisations: A ritual of legacy in transition— Frances Hancock and David Epston

    In this paper we explore the relevance and possible applications of narrative forms of enquiry to strategic planning in community organisations. How does one translate the ideas and practices of narrative enquiry, which have their genesis in the realm of family therapy, to the field of organisational development? Are there ‘family resemblances’ or do such practices need to be re-invented? In particular, what is a possible starting point for a narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning with community organisations? We propose that a narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning can rouse practitioners at all levels of the organisation to recall and pass on ‘stories that deeply matter’. Such storytelling implicates a ‘story-in-the-making’ in the form of a stirring and unfolding organisational legacy. Organisational practitioners not only remember that legacy into the present but also appraise how it might pass in transit into ‘a sought-after future’. Narrative enquiry may assist organisational practitioners (paid or voluntary, governance or staff) to inspirit their practice with a new-found sense of meaning, purpose and zeal for organisational mission. It may also help summon foresight to evolve a strategic direction and plan capable of guiding them, perhaps along ‘the road less travelled’ towards a soughtafter future.


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    Building bridges: Re-authoring workplace relationships— Ninetta Tavano

    This article reflects on the journey of many therapists to find ways of sustaining collegial relationships across differing paradigms. The author offers three stories of consultation with therapists about workplace difficulties to demonstrate the use of a number of narrative approaches. These include externalising conversations, richly describing intentional state understandings, and re-membering practices.