Decolonising identity stories

Decolonising practice

An introduction from Tileah Drahm-Butler

Decolonising Identity Stories

Tileah Drahm-Butler discusses how narrative therapy can be used as a decolonising practice.



Now you can read Tileah’s chapter on the same topic:

Decolonising identity stories: Narrative practice through Aboriginal eyes

This chapter is from the book Aboriginal narrative practice: Honouring Storylines of price, strength and creativity by Barbara Wingard, Carolynanha Johnson and Tileah Drahm-Butler

Closing words from Tileah

This Post Has 102 Comments

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    I appreciated the concept of ‘yarning with a purpose’. As a western practitioner (White Canadian), I am often unsure of how well western models of counseling support Indigenous individuals. Narrative therapy and yarning seem to be a way of connection that allows for deeper meaning and connection to culture. There are parallels to the knowledge I’ve been given through my Social Work degree, while also been a separate and unique way of engaging. Where I feel my knowledge is insufficient or not relevant to those I work with, I will reflect on the concept of yarning in the hopes it can bridge the gap.

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    We are the first storytellers; it speaks volumes that we can have these spaces that are safe and culturally appropriate to narrate our stories on ones journey to healing without judgement.

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    I really like the notion of strong stories and pulling at the threads of those – I can see a role for these in my current practice as a reframe of difficulties and ways to help people connect with what the value and what they need. Also, the important reminder of the problem as separate from the person – I loved the story of care taking and the snake as it touched into much deeper meaning that the problem of homelessness

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    This topic was powerful. I can really see how narrative therapy provides an authentic space for people to reclaim self determination. It truly centres them as the expert of their own lives and honours their voice and wisdom.

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    This was a very insightful section and I feel like it relates to a strength-based practice or approach that I’ve learned about.

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    Michael Mcneill

    Thank you guys this therapy allows people to create a new story, built by the awareness that our whole story is of value
    that we don’t have to be limited by past that through story telling we are set free to become all we are meat to be
    remember that your story is more powerful than you think

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    Just listening to this course I know why I feel interested in Narative therapy it’s already touched my soul and connected me to how much Shame plays a part in our mob’s lives. Thank you as this is another beautiful way to help our people.

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    Decolonising practice involves moving away from stories imposed on people by society and looking instead for exceptions such as stories of survival, resistance and courage to create strong stories. It involves externalisng any problems and placing them within a social and historical context.

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    “Therapeutic yarns that allow time, free-flowing conversation, two-way sharing, and are guided by purpose.” So many wonderful lessons in this module. I loved that respectful back-and-forth nature of asking influential questions, but honouring the leadership of the story-sharer (as the expert of their own life). This inherently begins to cultivate an environment where people can talk about their stories with a foundation dignity and safety.

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    As a Canadian, I found it extremely interesting to hear how much the Australia aboriginal stories echoed the trauma suffered by our North American indigenous peoples. I really value the role that Michael White and the Narrative Therapeutical approach has played in healing process, and how Barbara Wingard, Carolynanha Johnson and Tileah Drahm-Butler have applied it in their work. I have a greater understanding of yarning, and how important it is not only for indigenous peoples, but for anyone who seeks to heal from the past.

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    This part of the course was such a rich description of therapy sessions, thank you. It has reminded me of the political and spiritual aspects of Narrative Therapy that I fell in love with fifteen years ago, which inspired me to qualify as a Family Therapist. Although I have used externalising as a technique in my practice a lot I have not used it in relation to “shame”, and that was a fascinating and useful idea to take by to my practice. Thank you

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    Ian Howells

    Tileah’s presentation highlighted the appropriateness of using the term ‘Yarning” to replace the term ‘counselling’ when working with Indigenous people.

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    I found the video and reading both very insightful, the examples provided were also a good way to envisage how these conversations can go, to help ascertain a persons strong story running behind the problem story. The de-centering process would take practice to allow for the flow and two-way sharing which is something that has often been left out with client load/time demands, against outcomes in government work. I like that this approach comes from curiosity and exploration and is person focused.

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    Susie L

    As a non-Aboriginal woman, there are lots of opportunities for me to reflect how I can support the client as expert and support the telling of their stories while working with them. The addressing of the power dynamic and the creation of a safe place, as identified by the client has made me think again about how best to discuss and break this down.

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    That was a very useful chapter as it has specific examples of working with individuals. I am looking forward to receiving the book to enrich my learning. Thank you

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    debbie webster

    I reflected on the practice of externalization of shame as an integral part of decolonizing narratives and how this supports our well-being.

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    I reflected on the importance of defining well-being in our own ways and in our own language/story. I particularly could relate to the reading in where issues were discussed as the Thing. It made me feel that is so important to externalize shame and put it in its place and looked at- it is at the core of recognising the ongoing colonisation that occurs. This section gave an incredibly useful framework .

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    Michelle wilkinson

    yes I heard a theme of standing up for justice, started at a young age, but continues until today, it has become formative on her life/

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    Sandra Owen

    I reflected on the practice of decolonizing narratives and considered how that may sound. It is a powerful way to rise above the powerlessness of being colonized. I like it

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    Something that stood out to me about decolonising identity stories was the importance of externalising shame, and I thought the questions Tileah shared as examples of what she asks were thought-provoking and very useful.

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    Pandora Galea

    ‘Yarning with a purpose’ is a revolutionary phrase that should be incorporated in counselling practice as it offers a non-threatening lead into healing. Tileah offered a plethora of wisdom through theoretical and practical examples thereby allowing me to internalise the processes at a deeper level. Thankyou so much for this insight. The most significant to me were: the acknowledging of the impact of deeply rooted racial and cultural biases on the collective impacting the individual; the necessity to identify shame and its insidious impact for the individual and their mob; the search for the ‘double-story’ as a cooperative exercise between healer and recipient and the returning of power to the individual when they are enabled to witness and evaluate the stories in order to find solutions. Simply put, these acts combine to reintegration of the whole individual by acknowledging and accepting all facets of themselves thereby endowing these traumatic experiences to be chapters in their lives rather than having the power to be their whole story or identity. In undertaking such a courageous journey the individual also empowers their society as a collective.

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    Telling and re-telling our stories is important in de-colonizing our identities. Stories of marginalized people have been told and re-told, in ways that pathologize and disempower. As a person of African descent, I can relate to how we have been labelled as helpless and in need of a savior.

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