Externalising the problem

The person is not the problem!

“The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem”. These words of Michael White have become well-known within the field of narrative therapy. In this chapter we will explore ways of externalising problems and the possibilities this brings.


An introduction to externalising the problem from Tileah


Story of practice: Externalising conversations

Tileah Drahm-Butler


Shame Mat

Aunty Dolly Hankin and Aunty Kerry Major

Externalising can be used with groups in creative ways. Aunty Dolly Hankin and Aunty Kerry Major in Mount Isa, for example, have created the Shame Mat!


Thwarting shame: Feminist engagement in narrative groupwork

Kylie Dowse


‘You can call me Sugar’

This is a story of ‘Sugar’ by Aunty Barbara Wingard. It’s a story about trying to find new ways of working, of trying different things and taking new steps.

Please find the article here: Introducing ‘Sugar’

(from the book Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger by Barbara Wingard and Jane Lester)


Talking about Grief

Aunty Barbara has also created a character of ‘Grief’ to assist people to grieve and honour.

Please find the article: Grief: Remember, reflect, reveal

(from the book Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger by Barbara Wingard and Jane Lester)


Lateral Violence

This is one of the most influential externalising conversations ‘scripts’. It was developed by Aunty Barbara to assist people to talk about Lateral Violence.

A conversation with Lateral Violence 

Also included are documents about the special skills that Elders and young people from Woorabinda community are using to respond to Lateral Violence.

(from the book Aboriginal narrative practice: Honouring storylines of pride, strength & creativity by Barbara Wingard, Carolynanha Johnson & Tileah Drahm-Butler)


Aunty Barbara encourages you to give it a try!

Aunty Barbara Wingard, Carolyn Markey and Chris Dolman

This video is from a workshop with Aunty Barbara, Carolyn and Chris.


Reflections from Tileah

This Post Has 123 Comments

  1. jbyers

    So many ideas about how we could use this practice and can’t wait to explore them. Thinking about externalising FVIO [Family Violence Intervention Order] to better explain their purpose and how to navigate the legal system that impose them, while still holding people who use violence accountable or for young people to talk about “Cool”. Love this!

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