Working with young people

This chapter focuses on creative work with young people from Zanzibar, Rwanda, USA and South Africa.   Resisting social injustices We start in Zanzibar where Gharib Abdalla has used re-authoring practices, the Team of Life, documentation and outsider witnessing in…


Can narrative practices contribute to ‘social movement’? An invitation to join a project

G’day and welcome to this Friday afternoon video presentation from Dulwich Centre in which we invite you to join a project considering the challenges and possibilities in relation to narrative practices contributing to ‘social movement’. First shared in 2015, I’ve also included various links to texts and videos at the following link:


The ‘draft’ Narrative Therapy Charter of Storytelling rights

This video was the first Dulwich Centre online Friday Afternoon video in February 2015 and represented the launch of the Narrative Therapy (draft) Charter of Story-Telling Rights. This Charter is part of a broader project in relation to ‘narrative justice’: * When meeting with people whose problems are the result of human rights abuses and injustices, how can we ensure we do not separate healing from justice? This Charter proposes a framework for considering storytelling rights. We hope it will spark discussions about the rights of people who have experienced trauma/social suffering in relation to how their stories are told and received. We invite you to discuss this Charter with us, with friends, with colleagues, in your organisation and elsewhere. You may like to endorse this Charter or offer suggestions, changes, and or additions. For more information and further resources, visit:


In the early days of the pandemic: A message to Chinese colleagues

I can vividly recall making this video message to Chinese colleagues. It was at the very beginning of the pandemic, when only those in Wuhan were facing what was soon to become global. Please forgive the bad lighting (and bad hair). It was before we had all learnt about zoom and well before we had created a studio at Dulwich Centre. We didn’t know what was to come, but I wanted to send a message of friendship to Chinese colleagues, especially those in Wuhan. Knowing that volunteers in Wuhan were already responding to great hardship, I shared stories of narrative practice from Palestine, from Rwanda and from Malawi that I hoped may be resonant. As a postscript, many months later when Covid-19 was now ravaging other parts of the world, the Chinese colleagues I initially sent this message to then returned videos of support and connection.


Can you tell us more about this? Responding to the questions of Brazilian colleagues

I love teaching contexts with Brazilian colleagues – whether in person or online. In this session, organised by Lúcia Helena Assis and Recycling Minds I was posed the following questions: - All narrative practitioners usually honour the native peoples of the place where they live and their ancestors, how could we do that here in Brazil? - Lúcia Helena Assis told us that you wrote a whole book based on letters where you wanted to talk to your great-grandfather and that in a way you wanted to deal with issues that were difficult for you. Could you tell us a little about this? - I would like to know about educational projects with children and young people with reference to narrative practices. In the context of mental health, which projects have been implemented? - Can you please talk a little more about Double Listening, the Absent but Implicit and the practice of External Witnesses in the work you developed with detainees? And, also, about the practice of producing collective documents through music. - Lúcia Helena Assis told us that you know counsellors from three different locations in Kurdistan. Iraq and that these counsellors work with Yazidi women who were captured by ISIS. Could you tell us more about this? - What was your most memorable moment with narrative therapy? - How can narrative practices respond to the conflicts of such a polarised world and to the problems arising from macro socio-economic and cultural contexts? I did my best to respond and share relevant stories.


Eliciting and honouring Yazidi counter stories: As described to workers in Kurdistan responding to Yazidi women

The workers at the Jiyan Foundation in Kurdistan, Iraq, are responding to Yazidi women who were formally captured by ISIS. I had the pleasure of meeting with Jiyan Foundation workers in Kurdistan back over 10 years ago. During the pandemic they requested an online training, translated simultaneously into both Kurdish and Arabic (hence why I am speaking slowly and deliberately). This clip was in the first session of six days of training in which I sought to convey the narrative metaphor and the concept of dominant and counter storylines of identity.


What gets us through hard times: Creating collective documents & Rwandan experiences

During the first workshop in Rwanda in 2007 with survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, one of the key moments was developing a collective document entitled ‘Living in the shadow of genocide: how we respond to hard times – Stories of sustenance from the workers of Ibuka’. In this video message to current East African students of narrative therapy, I seek to introduce ways of creating collective documents; share an English video version of that early document from Ibuka workers; and invite participants to create their own documents & songs.


Histories of narrative therapy and community work in Rwanda

Some of my most significant workshop experiences have taken place in Rwanda, in particular a workshop back in 2007 with counsellors and assistant lawyers from Ibuka, the national genocide survivors association. This workshop was the result of an invitation from Kaboyi Benoit and I was there with Cheryl White and Jill Freedman. Fast forward to the present and there is now a narrative therapy and community work course through the University of Rwanda. During the pandemic, I was asked to share some of the histories of connections between practitioners in Rwanda and Australia. This was the video I sent through to be shared in Kigali.


Looking for answers in the right places: An introduction to collective narrative practice

One of the key sparks for the development of collective narrative practice came from a challenge posed by Paulo Freire. In this presentation, I share this story and the key principles of collective narrative practice. I then share the story of work in which a number of these principles first became clear to me. This was with a man, called Peter, who wished to testify from prison about the abuse he had experienced in children’s homes.


Stories from the origins of collective narrative practice: personal and political histories

In response to a request from Chinese colleagues, in this video I tell the story of how I first learnt about narrative therapy ideas while working at Long Bay Prison in Sydney through being handed an issue of the Dulwich Centre Newsletter on Men’s Ways of Being (edited by Cheryl White and Maggie Carey). In seeking ways to respond to the social issue of men’s violence, I then travelled to Adelaide to study an intensive with Michael White and being introduced to two community projects being undertaken by Dulwich Centre at the time – a gathering for Aboriginal families who had lost a loved to a death in custody, and an alternative community mental health project. Upon returning to Sydney, in schools and in the prison, the first principles of collective narrative practice started to take shape.


Checklists of social and psychological resistance

The first checklist social and psychological resistance was developed in collaboration with Mohammed Safa in Beirut, Lebanon, in 2006. In this presentation, I share that story and describe how such checklists can be created to honour local resistances and what is precious to people even in the most devastating of times. It is a process and practice that aims to assist practitioners make visible storylines of resistance.


Exchanging stories, skills and songs: the possibilities of narrative practice

In this keynote to the Fifth International Conference of Pluralistic Counselling and Psychotherapy, I introduced metaphoric narrative practices such as the Team of Life, Tree of Life, Kite of Life, Umbrella of Life and Recipe of Life. These methodologies combine aspects of local folk culture with narrative practice and seek to enable people to make contributions to others and towards addressing whatever broader social issues they are grappling with. I also showed a short video related to the Team of Life approach: “Trying not to fight with friends: Tips from the Stay Strong Football Club”. The keynote ended with a song, trying to demonstrate the principle of transforming anguish to art and social contribution. This song was crafted from the words of ‘Jess’ and in collaboration with feminist narrative therapist Erin Costello.


Four stories of narrative practice: David Denborough, Fariba Ahmadi & Dr Abdul Ghaffar Stanikzai

In this keynote for the Australian Family Therapy Conference, I was joined by two Afghani colleagues, Fariba Ahmadi and Dr Abdul Ghaffar Stanikzai to share four stories of narrative practice: o Family therapy through the Team of Life approach o Consulting Afghan children through a time of crisis (the fall of Kabul to the Taliban) o ‘Surviving the ocean of depression’ audio resources And a project that involved the use of collective narrative practice with Syrian young people in Adelaide who created a video to welcome future new arrivals.


Three stories, three songs and ten principles

For a keynote address to a narrative therapy conference in Cologne, Germany, I tried to articulate 10 (or 11) key principles of practice through sharing three songs and the stories of how these were created. These include the first song I wrote in a work context using narrative practice. It’s called ‘Pride’ and the lyrics were spoken to me from an HIV positive man, Wayne, who I worked with in Long Bay Prison. The second song is the ‘theme’ song of the Power to Our Journeys Group … a group of folks who heard voices facilitated by Michael White. The final song is a personal one seeking to articulate complex, nuanced laments and the unanswerable questions that can accompany grief.


Narrative therapy and philosophies in dialogue: Can we contribute to ‘social movement’?

The organisers of the International Congress of the ÖAS in Salzburg/Austria (June 9th 2023) were seeking to bring narrative therapy and philosophy into dialogue. In my keynote, I discussed four political philosophies which offer continual challenges to me – Indigenous philosophical challenges; feminist philosophies; Foucauldian critique; and the challenges of Paulo Freire – and linked these to practice stories.

Read more about the article Caring for trans community – Tiffany Sostar
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Caring for trans community – Tiffany Sostar

This audio practice note and the collective document it describes are part of “narrative projects in support of trans lives”, and are the first to be published in this collection of work. Not to fix anything, but just to offer a millimetre of relief or breath or humour or companionship": A collective document about caring for trans community brings together many stories of care within and with trans community. Our hope is that this document will help connect readers to a sense of community and collective action, and will invite readers, regardless of gender identity, to join us in taking actions of care within a social context that is increasingly hostile to trans lives. These stories, reflection questions, and invitations describe and welcome a wide range of care, including small, personal, and beautifully imperfect actions taken by and alongside trans community.

Read more about the article Standing upright against trauma and hardship: Checklists of innovative moments of social and psychological resistance – Muhammed Furkan Cinisli
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Standing upright against trauma and hardship: Checklists of innovative moments of social and psychological resistance – Muhammed Furkan Cinisli

Trauma represents a profound and emotionally intense experience within the human condition. Beyond its evident impacts on both the physiological and psychological dimensions of an individual, this complex phenomenon encapsulates moments of resistance and strength in the face of adversity. From a narrative standpoint, individuals invariably manifest unique responses to trauma, which necessitate a close and nuanced examination for recognition and comprehension. This article proposes a framework for the systematic collection and organisation of diverse responses to trauma through a checklist of innovative moments of social and psychological resistance, contributing to a greater comprehension of this intricate phenomenon.

Read more about the article Narrative therapy, Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese medicine: An interview with Ming Li, Mandarin translation read by Ming Li and Qianyun Yang
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Narrative therapy, Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese medicine: An interview with Ming Li, Mandarin translation read by Ming Li and Qianyun Yang

In this audio translation of a paper from the journal’s archives, David Denborough interviews Ming Li, a narrative practitioner in Beijing, China, with an interest in the resonances he sees between some narrative ideas and practices, and those of Buddhism, Taoism and other aspects of Chinese culture, history and medicine. Ming draws on multiple domains of knowledge and experience to describe some of the congruencies and points of difference he has noticed, and to explain what draws him to using a narrative practice approach in his own context.

Read more about the article “It’s a sausage, not a scone”: A recipe for getting through hard times in response to the suicide of a loved one – Beth and Ben Shannahan
A beautiful golden sunrise bursting through the eucalyptus trees as it rises over a mountain. A river cuts through a deep valley with early morning mist rising up the dense foliage on the sides of the mountain.

“It’s a sausage, not a scone”: A recipe for getting through hard times in response to the suicide of a loved one – Beth and Ben Shannahan

Ben Shannahan began meeting with Beth and her family soon after Beth’s older sister Amberly ended her own life. Their conversations lead to Beth writing a song in honour of Amberly. Here, Beth and Ben share the song along with the story of how it was written and eventually performed to family members and friends.

Read more about the article Games and narrative practice by Noor Kulow
Australian eucalyptus or gum tree leaves in the afternoon sunlight.

Games and narrative practice by Noor Kulow

In this presentation to the International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference in Rwanda, Noor Kulow introduces a range of narrative practices that have been used with children in Somalia who have lost their biological parents early in life. Externalising conversations, the Team of Life approach and traditional children’s games are used to respond to stigma, reconnect children with their hopes and dreams, and respond to trauma and hardship. Movement-based activities like leapfrog and jumping, and traditional games like girir and jar, provide entry points to therapeutic conversations.


Feminist insider research by Marnie Sather

In this presentation, made at the launch of the Narrative Practice Research Network, Marnie Sather introduces some of the possibilities and complexities of feminist insider research. Drawing on her experience of completing doctoral research with women who had lost a male partner to suicide, Marnie sets out some of the options for positioning the researcher in insider research – from not disclosing insider status to placing it as the centre – and describes how she came to a position of careful utilisation of her own experience in the research process and in the writing of her thesis.

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How we deal with Autistic burnout by KJ Wiseheart

In this video, KJ introduces the accompanying collective document “How we deal with Autistic burnout: A living document created by Autistic adults for Autistic adults”. This document was created through a series of interviews with lived experience experts who generously shared their skills and hard-won knowledges. KJ describes the process of creating this document, and how they endeavoured to adapt and localise existing practices of collective documentation, for accessibility and cultural resonance with Autistic community values and ways of being.


A search for justice using AI-assisted image creation — Lucy Van Sambeek

As artificial intelligence becomes pervasive, therapists might be left wondering about its implications for narrative practice. This paper explores an unexpected discovery about the power of artificial intelligence in re-imagining a story of injustice. Lucy (the therapist) and Miles (the client) used an AI image creator to assist in the externalisation of problems.

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Imagination and metaphor in narrative therapy and collective practice — John Stubley

In this paper I explore the use of metaphors in the creation of externalised problem narratives for individuals and larger collectives, as well as in the creation of preferred alternative narratives. Through practice examples, I relate some of the ways in which I have been working with imagination and metaphor in my own context in Western Australia.


The effort and intricacies of generating experience-near language – David Newman

In this paper I explore Clifford Geertz’s distinction between experience-near and experience-distant language. In the process, I draw from mad studies and mental health service user epistemology, both written and generated through my work. I also draw on the work of the historian of emotion Tiffany Watt Smith.

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The Rainbow of Life: A collective narrative practice with young LGBTQIA+ people with a health condition – James McParland and Jaymie Huckridge

This article describes the use of narrative practices for LGBTQIA+ young people with a health condition. It presents a collective narrative practice: the Rainbow of Life. This adapts the Tree of Life metaphor to invite rich story development opportunities when working with LGBTQIA+ people. It involves exploring their commitments, special moments and those who stand alongside them in solidarity, and creatively mapping these on to a rainbow image.


An Episode of Your Life: Rich narrative engagement with episodic stories — Julie Stewart, Tiffany Sostar, Ian Myhra, Sonia Hoffmann and Jyotsna Uppal

This article describes a new practice map, an “Episode of Your Life”, which adapts existing narrative “... of life” practices to an episodic story from a person’s life using metaphors from film and television production. This practice map draws significantly on ideas of “peopling the room” and the Team of Life in order to scaffold safety in imagining the process of telling painful stories through the collectivising of the storytelling process. This practice map specifically does not require that the storyteller tell the story, but rather invites them to imagine how they might tell a story from their life in a way that aligns with their values, hopes and preferred storylines. Some of the significant effects that we discovered were related to the richness of the visual metaphor for adding another layer of possible meaning-making in the storytelling process, and allowing for a “proliferation of what’s possible” in the imagining of the storytelling, such as through the use of time jumps; computer-generated imagery; inviting rich descriptions of preferred relationships, histories and values; and dignifying of stories that otherwise might be left unspoken. Participants were left with a feeling of solidarity and a “safe riverbank” from which to imagine telling their stories.


Psychosocial support initiatives in the aftermath of the 2023 earthquake: A university-led community approach — Mehmet Dinç and Canahmet Boz

This article discusses the response of a university psychology department to the devastating earthquakes that struck Türkiye on 6 February 2023, resulting in significant loss of life and widespread destruction. This paper focuses on the narrative practices undertaken by a university psychology department in the affected region, particularly the establishment of a psychological support telephone line staffed by volunteer psychologists.

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Safety and solidarity: Using collective documents to share sex workers’ insider knowledges — Julia Sharp

Western culture and Western health care systems have created places of sexual health care that are highly individualised, privatised and professionalised. For people engaged in sex work, this reduces the possibilities for sharing skills and knowledges and instead leaves people with internalised feelings of shame, guilt and isolation. This paper describes collective therapeutic work that elicited insider knowledges, skills and sparkling moments from sex workers.

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Departing from stigma and secrecy and elevating stories of agency: Narrative practice in the voices of sex workers — Kaur Serendipity

This paper explores the use of narrative therapy and community work to respond to the complexities surrounding women’s experiences in the sex industry. It offers practices for therapists and community workers seeking to engage with sex workers in ways that are respectful of their hard-won knowledge and seek to elicit double-storied accounts in relation to hardship, thicken stories of preferred identities, and explore absent-but-implicit values, hopes and commitments.

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Read more about the article My album, by Chaste Uwihoreye, Jean Marie Zivugukuri and Emmanuel Kigundu
Snow gum trees (Eucalyptus pauciflora) in Baw Baw National Park, Australia.

My album, by Chaste Uwihoreye, Jean Marie Zivugukuri and Emmanuel Kigundu

My Album is a poignant collection of artworks by children and adolescents engaged in “Mobile Arts for Peace” (MAP) clubs across multiple schools in Rwanda. The artworks vividly portray painful pasts, current challenges, and aspirations for the future. The vibrant tapestry of colours, symbols, and metaphors encapsulates the resilience and courage of these young people.


Indigenous storyWORK as research by Tileah Drahm-Bulter

First Nations peoples have been conducting research for millennia. As research methodology, Indigenous storywork puts Indigenous voices at the centre, transforming colonial structures by countering colonial stories that have spread across our land and claimed space. Indigenous storywork might also be thought of as a prequel to narrative practice. It offers synergies for First Nations therapists, community workers and scholars to understand contemporary issues in alignment with Indigenous world views.


On critical thinking by Mary Heath, read by Mary Heath

In this audio recording of a favourite paper from the journal’s archives, Mary Heath sets out a personal history of her journey toward becoming a critical thinker. She considers two common barriers to critical thinking: cultural disapproval of critique, and confusing critical thinking with criticism. In response, Mary argues that rigorous thinking offers benefits – and not only risks – to cultures as well as individuals.


Complexities of disability, chronic illness and able-bodied privilege — Gipsy Hosking

This video explores Gipsy’s lived experience of chronic illness to give an introduction to disability politics. She invites the listener to investigate their own relationship to disability and able-bodied privilege and how this may show up in their narrative work. Gipsy shares with us the methodology (participant action research) that enabled her PhD research work (on young women’s lived experience of chronic illness) to also be a tool for social change and to create a positive impact for participants by the collective coming together and sharing of stories.


Unravelling trauma, co-creating relief and weaving resilience: Playful collaborations with children, families and networks, by Sabine Vermeire

In times of hardship, talking directly about painful or traumatic experiences, overwhelming emotions, or problematic actions with children, young people or families can be difficult. As co-researchers, we invite children, youngsters and their families and networks to contribute in playful ways to unravelling the tentacles of hardship and re(dis)covering a sense of agency, belonging and coherence. Together, we look in unexpected corners for safe places to build a team of support and solidarity. In dis-covering a multiplicity of stories rather than being trapped in one dominant story of trauma or loss, we co-create relief and develop more coherent storylines that weave the experiences and stories about hardship into the fabric of their lives.

Read more about the article Planet stories: Using AI-generated science fiction to externalise conflict in relationships — Andrea Ng
Photo of Adelaide Parklands from the Aunty Barb Walking History Journey

Planet stories: Using AI-generated science fiction to externalise conflict in relationships — Andrea Ng

Externalising can be useful in addressing conflict in relationships. It can provide space for deconstruction, the consideration of shared values and new meaning-making. It also avoids the labelling and deficit identity conclusions that can accompany internalised accounts. This audio practice note describes an emerging practice for working with couples experiencing conflict: using an artificial intelligence tool to generate science fiction stories to support the externalising of a problem and open space for reauthoring conversations.


My favourite questions by Jill Freedman, read by Esther Benz

In this audio recording of a favourite paper from the journal’s archives, Jill Freedman offers three sets of questions that she names as “favourites” in her own work. The first two sets of questions are ones therapists can ask clients. The first set may help people link their lives with others. The second may help people organise their experiences into narratives. The third is a question that therapists can ask themselves to help them come to questions that promote experiential involvement.


Addicted to Life, Written and directed by Pola Rapaport (2022), reviewed by David Newman

In the opening scene of the 2022 documentary Addicted to Life, about the Belgian athlete Marieke Vervoort, diagnosed with a painful degenerative spinal disease, we hear powerful defiance. Over an internet call, Vervoort, who has obtained papers to end her life via euthanasia, says to the filmmaker Pola Rapaport: "Everyone is pushing me and asking me, 'When are you going to die? Do you know already the date that you’re going to die?' I said, 'Fuck you. … You don’t know when you want to die. When the time comes, when I feel it’s enough, then I will decide'.” ... It is a powerful start to a tender and at times harrowing story of the last three years of a life and the intricate weaving of pain, extraordinary athletic accomplishment, determination, relationships and euthanasia. It’s a story that carefully explores the idea that “not only life but also death is political” (Özpolat, 2017, p. 28).

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Curiosity, power and narrative practice, Perry Zurn interviewed by Zan Maeder

What are some of the dominant and alternative stories of curiosity? How do we wield it and to what effect? What does it mean to attend to the politics of curiosity in our lives and work and to acknowledge it as a collective practice and social force that can colonise, normalise and divide us and disrupt, liberate and connect us? Zan Maeder interviews Perry Zurn, Provost Associate Professor of Philosophy at American University and author of Curiosity and power: The politics of inquiry (2021) about work tracing histories of curiosity in philosophy and political theory and co-creating (with many other transgressors, past and present) possibilities for ethical and liberatory curiosity praxis.


Making history come alive: Seeking truth and justice, Vijaya Teelock interviewed by David Denborough

In this interview, Mauritian historian Vijaya Teelock discusses breaking historical silences, democratising history, intangible heritage, memorialising and the complexities of seeking justice and reparation for historical wrongs. The interview took place in Vijaya’s home in Mauritius with David Denborough, Cheryl White and Diana Shanto present.


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