Documenting people’s skills and knowledge

An introduction to documentation from Tileah


Living in the shadow of genocide: what sustains us

This video is a collective narrative document that honours the skills of  counsellors and assistant lawyers of Ibuka (‘Remember’) which is a genocide survivors association in Rwanda.

Now, please also read these letters written between Rwandan, Jewish and Aboriginal  counsellors:

Strengthening Resistance: The use of narrative practices in working with genocide survivors


An encyclopedia of young people’s skills and knowledge

In narrative therapy and community work, we try to document people’s skills and knowledge. We do this in lots of different ways! Here is an example of a a recent project that documented the skills and knowledge of diverse groups of young people in many different ways … writing, video and songs!

Encyclopedia of young people’s life-saving tips 


Documents in therapy

Eileen Hurley (USA) tries to assist young people in jails to create ‘non-criminal records’ through narrative documentation.

Establishing non-criminal records, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work


Story of practice: Documenting people’s skills and knowledge

Tileah Drahm-Butler

Now, listen to the song Drop the Rock.


A booklet of women’s stories

Natalie Smee

A collective booklet from women who are survivors of domestic violence.



Sometimes songs can play a powerful part in narrative practice. Here’s a song that was generated from a narrative gathering in Narrandera Koori community:

We remember those who’ve left us


Reflections from Tileah

This Post Has 59 Comments

  1. bree.h

    I enjoyed the topic of documenting stories and knowledge; I think this is an important thing to do on one’s journey not only does it allow for people to understand their stories and knowledge it allows for them to look back on their experiences as well as being able to pass their stories and knowledge down.

  2. mareef

    I love the idea of writing down thoughts and feelings and exploring how domestic violence has affected or continues to affect a person through their journey. It would be a good healing process and a good resource to look back on to see how far a person has come and how many things have changed for the better.

  3. dre_atkinson

    It was nice to be reminded of how important it is that people are given the opportunity to document their healing journeys. It is clear that in doing so it adds another layer to the healing. It’s so important, as we have seen that there is not just one way to do this. The primary school knowledge of how to tackle problems was one of my favourites.


    This narrative project is so powerful. I love the idea that this was a way to come out from secrecy and have others witness the experience of these women. I also relate to being aware of the privilege and power of the co-author. The checking-in, and allowing the contributors to leave and withdraw consent at any time, is such an important part of empowerment and self-determination and autonomy – particularly for those who may have felt disempowered, unable to self-determine and lack autonomy in their experiences. Valuing the experience of women and all they have done to keep themselves safe along with their children is so critical because it is true they plan each and everyday around keeping themselves, their children, and pets safe, there is no place for judgment or stigma, although it still can occur in services, this I know.


    Natalie’s presentation was an opening for so many women .The great need for narrative therapy in these circumstances such as domestic violence is needed amongst all communities. These narratives shared would give women a sense of belonging knowing that they are not alone

  6. Jessy

    What great examples of documentation. I love how creative you can get with this part of narrative therapy and I have received some great ideas that I can incorporate into my practice.

  7. rachel.faulkner

    I like the diversity of documentation used in this module. I also particularly liked the young people’s tips for dealing with bullying, these would be good to share with other young people

  8. naomipersaud99

    I found this part of the course to be very enlightening. As a person who comes from Indigenous heritage from both “Canada” (also known as Turtle Island) as well as Guyana, the kinship I feel with hearing stories of other Traditional people in a different part of the world is profound. The way our people have always used storytelling or yarning as well as song and dance as a form of healing-based expression is beautiful. I believe this is why our cultural practices have endured all the hardships, forced assimilation, and attempted erasure by colonial influences. I love that this approach to healing is universal and extremely effective (not to mention if it is done correctly very non-invasive/ catered to the individual/group’s experiences). I cannot wait to apply this to my practice upon completion of this course.

  9. linda.gilbert6

    These many methods of constructing documents have helped me to reflect on how I use documentation in my own practice. I often use art, or illustrated life story lines, but have never thought of using a letter. This is certainly something I will try with my own clients.

  10. Carson

    I really appreciated the concept of establishing non-criminal records with individuals who could easily become identified with, and self identify as, criminals, delinquents, offenders etc. Looking beyond the label allowed for a much more fulsome and therapeutic understanding of both the individual and their behaviour. Importantly the young men who participated in this project were co-constructing the narrative with the therapist. Seeing this reminds me in my own practice that I do not need to construct positive narratives for clients, I can co-construct narratives with them. When I’m not mindful of this I often fall into doing the former (trying to convince someone they’re not XYZ), rather than the latter (supporting them in seeing themselves differently).

  11. Nathel Fishlock

    Natalie’s presentation was an opening for so many women .The great need for narrative therapy in these circumstances such as domestic violence is needed amongst all communities. These narratives shared would give women a sense of belonging knowing that they are not alone .

  12. Jesse

    I especially loved reading the “Documents in Therapy” article, and her concept of recording a youth’s “non-criminal record” or story. I think it’s powerful to capture youth skills & knowledges in a way that goes beyond simply discussing them. Sometimes it makes those competencies feel more real. It also gives opportunities for youth to reflect on those skills/knowledges in times when they feel like they’re loosing their “grasp” on their strong story. We’ve done podcasting with our youth as a really fun way to capture their knowledge.

  13. debbie webster

    I found this very rewarding to hear the many creative ways people have approached the past adversities in people’s lives. The shared experiences and varied stories were a very interesting collection of narratives. As I do have a focus on domestic violence I was very interested in the narrative by Natalie. It did give me inspiration to re shape my approaches to these people. The shared booklet is a fantastic idea.

  14. boodika

    I have wanted to work collaboratively and narratively with families who have experienced grief and loss, but here in the UK my thinking (and that of my clients) has been influenced heavily by contemporary European views of what grief and loss should look like. That dominant discourse has strongly influenced our sessions, with concepts of “saying goodbye” for example, which have not fitted well with my personal and private experiences of grief. It is such a complex and fascinating subject. For example, my mum has criticised my need for continued re-membering of the lost ones, while she feels that it is better (for her at least) to stop talking about or thinking about the past because it is painful. It was reassuring to hear these many stories of humans doing loss and grief in a way that makes more sense to me personally. In term of my practice I am going to feel more validated in supporting families to find ways to grieve that fit for themselves.

  15. Nikki

    I really enjoyed listening to the Stories of Sustenance from the Workers of Ibuka. Although dealing with genocide, it reminded me of when I worked with young Vietnamese refugees and asylum seekers (unaccompanied minors) and the ways they took care of themselves and each other while living in Adelaide Community Detention. They were fleeing Catholic religious persecution and oppression and leaving their families behind for a better life. Song and prayer appeared to bring much comfort to them. The young girls told me how they used to sing and nurse the younger children while on their boat journey here to provide much needed comfort. Before bedtime every evening they would also pray at their shrine set up in their lounge room. The young men would do this as well as join local soccer teams. Unfortunately though, the link to the letters written between Rwandan, Jewish and Aboriginal counsellors, Strengthening Resistance could not be accessed.

  16. Sandra Owen

    I loved seeing the creative experiences that are utilized as tools to overcome these internal struggles. It is impressive to employ the creative mind to find our way back to self-esteem and to still our troubled minds in overcoming issues that internally devastate us.

  17. Clare

    This chapter was great to see how there are so many ways people come together to cope with past events. Common threads about sharing and hearing each other’s stories, as well as the emotional connection of music were great to listen to. I hope to be much more open to creative ways of connecting with others’ and learning their stories and experiences – such as creating art or writing poems and stories.


    I enjoyed seeing the range of ways that people can document their story and their reflections. I have been working with young people and enjoy using creative art journalling with them as a practice to document in drawing, painting, collage, poem and prose their thoughts and reflections. It has been enthusiastically embraced. I do also have a rule about always practising myself what I am asking the young people to try. I have found it a magnificent way of exploring my thoughts and feelings.

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