2014: Issue 3

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Editorial by Cheryl White

Welcome to the third issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2014.

We’re delighted with the diversity of the pieces included here! From work with the elderly residents of a Jewish nursing home in Australia; to work with young people using hip-hop in North America and the UK; to innovative narrative couple therapy (with a polyamorous reflection from Austria), there’s something here for just about everyone.

What’s more, we’ve also included an interview about research and power; a paper about narrative group work; reflections from a psychiatrist engaged with narrative therapy; and an invitation to engage with young people through the realm of computer games.

We hope you enjoy the issue!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


david-epstonA guest column by David Epston

I (David Epston) am grateful to both Tania Beekmans and Joel Fay for their contributions to this issue of the Journal.

Tania Beekmans graduated from the Bachelors in Social Practice, UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. Since graduating, she has worked at ATWC Family Start from 2006 till 2012. She is currently a Practice Leader at Turuki Health Care – Kotahitanga Family Start. In her work with Kendra, Sam, their daughter Dreia and extended family, she hit upon a very novel way so that the implicit prejudice that was making it impossible for her/Dreia to access public places was turned in to encounters that were encouraging of both her and Dreia. I know of no letter ever written in the context of narrative therapy that has been read by 150 or so readers. I wish I could have been present to see the smiles on shoppers’ faces after reading this letter and the slogans on Dreia’s t-shirt: ‘Oxygen helps my lungs grow – your smile will help me thrive!’

Joel Fay, affectionately and respectfully known as the ‘narrative policeman’, has been long known for the creativity of his practice. His thesis was a remarkable development of narrative inquiry offering police officers the means to debrief a fellow police officer after a critical or subcritical incident in a bar rather than a psychologist’s office (see A Narrative Approach to Critical and Sub-Critical Incident Debriefings). Another co-authored paper by myself, eleven year old Sasha, her untrained puppy, Amber, Joel and his police dog, Isha (see ‘Joel, can you help me to train Amber to be a guard dog?) is a testament to Joel’s creativity. Until his retirement from the San Rafael Police Department, Joel was developing what was referred to as ‘restorative policing’ which was being researched by the State of California. His ‘restorative policing’ was the subject of Public Broadcast Service(PBS) in United States in their Visionaries series. Joel has also been awarded by the American Civil Liberties Union as a ‘man of justice’ and by the California Association of Psychology as ‘humanitarian of the year’. He is currently in private practice and the Clinical Director of the West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat.


  • Toward a theory of relational accountability: An invitational approach to living narrative ethics in couple relationships— Thomas Stone Carlson and Amanda Haire

    $9.90

    This paper describes an approach to couples therapy that seeks to help couples intimately apply the ethics of narrative ideas in their personal lives and relationships. This intimate application of narrative ideas is focused on helping partners to gain an appreciation for the shaping effects of their actions on one another’s stories of self and to engage in intentional relationship practices that nurture and positively shape the stories of self of their partners. While this approach to working with couples is centred in a narrative philosophy and ethics, alternative practices are presented to help couples challenge the negative effects of individualising discourses on their lives and relationships and to enter preferred relationship practices that are informed by a relational understanding of self and accountability.


  • Why (not) simply loving? Polyamorous reflections— Marion Herbert and Erik Zika

    $5.50

    This short reflective piece was offered at the 12th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, in Adelaide, Australia, in November 2014. It deals with the relationship option of polyamory: this is a relationship concept that enables the people involved to live sexual and/or love relationships with several partners at the same time in a transparent way. Possible aspects regarding the psychotherapeutic practice are discussed.


  • Making a meaning-full life at Montefiore— Dafna Stern and Caroline Serrure

    $9.90

    This paper examines the question of whether the elderly can make a meaningful life for themselves while residing in residential aged care. This question was explored in a joint project with twelve residents of the Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Home in Hunters Hill, Sydney. Their reflections were put into a collective document which is available for newcomers to the Home. The document demonstrates a process of meaning-making in which elderly residents play an active role. While participating in the project, attention was drawn to the residents’ skills and knowledges.


  • ‘I gracefully grab a pen and embrace it’: Hip-hop lyrics as a means for re-authoring and therapeutic change— Travis Heath and Paulo Aroyo

    $9.90

    This paper documents the use of hip-hop culture and rap music as a vehicle for change within the context of narrative therapy. Ways in which hip-hop lyrics can provide a voice to a population that is often not granted one, are explored. In addition, dominant stories about hip-hop music as a genre that is exclusively misogynistic, irresponsible, derogatory and offensive, are challenged. A framework for using hip-hop lyrics to assist in core narrative processes such as deconstructing the problem story, unique outcomes, circulation of the new story and re-membering, has been developed. Finally, one of the authors shares his insider experiences with hip-hop music as a tool for change.

    Includes free bonus article ‘Reflecting on Hip-Hop’ by Dzifa Afonu. 


  • The Circle: A narrative group therapy approach— Mike Mertz

    $9.90

    This article describes ‘Circle’, a narrative group therapy approach used in a high-level residential treatment facility for young people involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice, or mental health systems. Most of the young people engaged in Circle have survived significant physical or sexual abuse or neglect and have been viewed, by others and themselves, as ‘severely emotionally disturbed’ or ‘dysfunctional’. Circle is intended to provide a space and opportunity for these young people to build a community of concern, and to identify and embrace preferred identities and directions for their lives. The work progresses through the following three stages: stage one – identifying what the young people give value to, exploring their preferred directions in life, and externalising problems; stage two – taking a stand for what the young people hold as important, negotiating their relationships with problems, and thickening the subordinate storylines of their lives; and stage three – stepping into preferred identities. Three exercises also are provided as illustrations of work completed in each stage of Circle.


  • Protection, collaboration and action: Research and power— An interview with Anita Franklin

    $5.50

    Anita Franklin teaches community workers at Sheffield University in the UK. This interview about research and power was conducted by David Denborough.


  • Serious play with computer games: A sometimes useful approach for connecting with young people who choose to wait and see— Clive Taylor

    $9.90

    Many young people are wary about engaging in counselling and this article explores one approach to connecting with them and inviting useful co-exploration of issues that may have intruded into their lives. The playing of computer games is widespread amongst young people and they have a passion for them and expertise that can be very helpful for narrative explorations. Computer games provide young people with ways of gaining skills and of achieving outcomes against the sometimes overwhelming challenges that games set against them, achievements that can seem completely lacking in their ‘real’ lives. This article follows one such exploration. Counsellors who are not ‘gamers’ can enlist the assistance and expertise of the young person in their exploration of this approach.


  • Narrative Therapy: Wandering with King Arthur and Dr. Watson— Povl E.B. Jensen

    $5.50

    It has been my ambition in recent years to persuade psychiatrists and doctors to include narrative therapy in their daily work practice. Likewise, by taking the best of two worlds, narrative therapy and psychiatry in harmony, I hope to inspire narrative therapists to consider that psychiatry is not the enemy, but can be put to very valuable use. My main point is that a person’s sense of identity, competence and ‘personal agency’ is paramount. Mental illness or disorder has a unique ability to undermine this, and mainstream psychiatry (with medical focus on pathology) is poorly equipped to hold the pieces together, let alone help strengthen selfconcept and self-esteem. By including basic narrative therapy strategies and concepts (like ‘double-listening’, rescuing exceptions to the disqualifying problem-story, use of metaphors and attending to ‘the absent but implicit’) we can achieve a far better engagement between patient/client and psychiatrist/therapist.