Welcome to this narrative therapy queer space!

Welcome to sexualities, genders and narrative practice — a narrative therapy and queer space AND a free online course!

This course will give you access to a rich collection of free papers, videos and extracts to enjoy at your own pace across 7 ‘chapters’ or ‘lessons’. Hopefully you’ll find a good mix of stories, ideas, insider knowledges and practice examples.

We recommend that you have completed the What is Narrative Practice Course or have foundational Narrative Practice knowledge or experience before embarking on this course, as we will be referring to narrative practice ideas without describing them in great detail.

This course is freely available to anyone, although we think it might be particularly relevant for those interested in counselling/ psychology/ community work/ social work or those already using Narrative Practices in therapy and community work contexts. You do not need to have any experience working with people who identify as LGBTQ*. We hope that this course will be just as valuable for those who have extensive practice or lived experience of sexual and gender diversity as it is for those knowingly stepping into these realms for the first time. Wherever you come from we hope you will find something interesting here.

By no means will this course answer all your questions – rather we hope it inspires more!

Along the way, your host will be Zan Maeder, a narrative practitioner living and working on Kaurna land in South Australia, who completed their Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work in 2019. 

This course has been created by Dulwich Centre Foundation.

We hope you find it helpful!

 


To invite you into this journey, we want to share with you two interviews of narrative practitioners reflecting on their journey into queering their practice.

Tileah Drahm-Butler (she/her) speaks about how decolonising and queering fit together in her practice, the importance of language, the guiding principle of ask, don’t interpret and the skills of being able to make mistakes.


Pshko Marden (he/him) speaks about the challenges of the unknown in his expanding practice around sexual and gender diversity. He shares a story of assumptions sneaking into his practice and the skills he used to respond; noticing, realising this is not a place you want to be, acknowledging and paddling back.

Hopefully these rich and generous offerings from Tileah and Pshko provided an opportunity to reflect on why you have taken up the invitation to step into learning about narrative practice and sexual and gender diversity. Now we want to hear from you!



Reflection questions:

  • What does it say about your hopes, values and commitments as a practitioner that you are embarking on this course?
  • What Narrative practice skills and knowledges do you think will be most valuable in expanding your knowledge and practice to embrace expansive genders and sexualities?
  • Who in your life might be able to accompany you or support you on this learning journey? 

Below each chapter, you’ll find a forum where you can share your reflections and exchange ideas with others taking this course.



A couple of tips:

  • You will see a sidebar on your right where you can navigate through different parts of the course and return ‘home’ at any stage.
  • As you go through the course we will invite you to click on different links to access a reading which will open ‘new pages’ or ‘new tabs’. As you progress you can close these pages and return to the main page to continue.
  • We hope that the forums in each chapter will be a place where people engage with each other respectfully. Please note that the views expressed in these forums are those of the group members and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dulwich Centre or Dulwich Centre Foundation. Dulwich Centre and Dulwich Centre Foundation do not accept responsibility for them.
  • If you have any difficulties with this site please email us c/o dcp@dulwichcentre.com.au

* This course does not yet include adequate representation of intersex experiences and perspectives. The acronym LGBTIQ is often used without meaningful inclusion of intersex experiences which can lead to conflation with gender diversity, misunderstanding and erasure. This course will provide some introductory resources created by intersex advocates in chapter two. However we would welcome future contributions (and reflections) from any intersex narrative practitioners or folks experienced in supporting those with intersex variations. Feel free to get in touch!

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Caroline

    Kia ora,
    Doing this course highlights my values of constantly evolving, learning, being open to new possibilities. For a cis gender woman born in the 60’s this is a whole new concept to wrap my head around. I am hopeful that this course will give me the confidence to take a conversation where I never would have dared go before. Using Tileah’s words, my wish is to become more expansive in my understanding of sexuality and gender. The narrative skills useful will be the deep listening and encouraging of story, the decolonizing of self and of course remembering that the client is always the expert. The interviews point out two important isses that I would like to work by. Ask, don’t interpret and know that you will get it wrong sometimes. As I gain more knowledge and confidence through this course, I’m sure there will be some great discussions with my adult children who are already embracing this new way of being.
    Caroline, Te Awamutu, New Zealand

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    EricaPM

    Hi,
    My name is Erica and my pronouns are she/her/they. I am writing from Treaty 6 territory and Metis zone 4 in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. The land that I live on is the traditional meeting place of many First Nation, Inuit and Metis people. I am embarking on my journey to become a psychologist and I personally identify as a lesbian, bisexual cis gender person. I am taking up the offering of this course in the hope that I can make my practice a safe and affirming place for individuals and those in relationship who have expansive genders and sexualities. I value critical thinking and examining bias in order to continually grow more inclusive. I think this is particularly important in the field of psychology in which the people that we meet with are taking risks in order to find a way to heal and/or grow and the ways in which we practice have the potential to impact their lives in many ways. I have a good friend who is on a similar career journey, much of her focus is on the trauma that racialized folks experience. I think that sharing ideas of anti-oppressive practice will be very helpful.

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    sylphillipsayre@yahoo.com.au

    Hi All,
    Just a brief introduction. My name is Syl, I’m a descendant of the Kamilaroi people of NSW, my current pro nouns are they/them he/him (cuz). My background has been predominately in Health and for several year as an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Health Worker.. I’ve worked in several area’s of community health. Last year I completed Aboriginal Narrative Approaches in Practise training, and on reflection realised I had been delivering services that practically are Narrative. It was a great course as it expanded my thoughts and ways I’ve previously practised and knowing there an profession and qualifications that I can emerse myself into was deadly amazing to hear. Hearing Zan and Tileah’s yarn was beaming my spirit. To hear mob embracing intersectionality and delivering this in practise is heart warming to hear.

    The yarn between Zan and Pshko was good too, it was great that Pshko felt safe to open up and share in a safe place. There are some service providers who assume people’s identities without asking a person to share he/her/their story on and sometimes this can create safe therapeutic environments and some people feel they have to “‘out themself” which can lead to harm.

    I’m looking forwards to this training as I hope to find a job as a Narrative practitioner in the near future. 🙂 Thank you

    1. Avatar

      sylphillipsayre@yahoo.com.au

      Reflection Questions
      What does it say about your hopes, values and commitments as a practitioner that you are embarking on this course?
      Having Tileah talk from an Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander cultural perspective and embracing all mob from binary and Non binary gender(s) and diverse sexualities gives me hope in a cultural capacity as few communities and service providers are safe, open, embracing , respectful and mindful spaces to access essential services. It’s also good to hear Pshko ‘s story of him being open and wanting to learn of the ‘unknown’ as a professional narrative practitioner.
      This gives me some hope as an Aboriginal mixed heritage Non-Binary Masc cuz / person that this course exists, deadly safe narrative practitioners exists and I can feel safe as a person and can in time can support people in a professional capacity.

      What Narrative practice skills and knowledges do you think will be most valuable in expanding your knowledge and practice to embrace expansive genders and sexualities?
      Introducing self with cultural safe yarns like my mob are …. my pro-nouns are…. Tell me about yourself, do you know who your mob are , if so what are your mob which country? and what are your pro-nouns… how do you identify your gender/ gender(s). Being able to share, actively listen and hear the person, the want and will to learn from individual people and ensuring service delivery is client centred and is driven by the client who is the expert of his /her/ their/ze/ hir ‘s life and encouraging the person to take ownership of this. By encouraging this, will allow and support individual clients to feel free and safe to identify, which can be the same or different from one day to the next (one session to the next). As a practitioner acknowledging, respecting and supporting a persons identity / identities will help foster and shape healthy open, trusting rapport / relationship.

      Who in your life might be able to accompany you or support you on this learning journey?
      Peers in the forum discussions in this course and through Dulwich Centre/ other’s in the industry
      Community social networks and groups both via online and in person platforms (covid dependent).

  4. Avatar

    Gabriel Friel

    My Name is Gabriel
    I really enjoyed the training because the Practitioners who where interviewed show honesty when they were dealing with each question and issue. Each question told a story about how issue can effect a person life on a day to bases .The narrative therapy s was a good outcome it explains how people can solve some issue if they have the coreect resource to go and talk with someone who listen to them.

  5. Avatar
    A.I.

    Hello! I thought I’d introduce before answering–I’m A.I. and I’m a student in a masters of social work who focuses on narrative therapy research and practice.

    What does it say about your hopes, values and commitments as a practitioner that you are embarking on this course?
    It says that I am willing to learn new things to provide care that’s more inclusive, caring, and warm. I think I should mention as a queer person, this is of interest to me and I have a commitment to the community.

    What Narrative practice skills and knowledges do you think will be most valuable in expanding your knowledge and practice to embrace expansive genders and sexualities?

    The intersection between decolonizing and queering my world. Also I hadn’t heard “expansive genders and sexualities.”

    Who in your life might be able to accompany you or support you on this learning journey?
    Classmates, teachers, and practitioners.

  6. Avatar

    Chantelle M

    Reflection questions:
    As a practitioner in the Adolescent Family Violence Space, my hopes, values and commitments are so strongly based around doing no further harm. For many/most Adolescents and families I will work with, have faced family violence and significant trauma. It is so crucial that my practice is open, honest, acceptive, non-judgmental and is without bias. By completing this course, I am hoping to be further educated and equipped with tools, skills, and knowledge, that will assist me when working with young people, to ensure I am coming from a place of support and care and not placing my assumptions on their lives and identity, especially around their gender and sexuality. As a white heterosexual woman, I have never had to face the enormity of challenges that society places on people, that they feel, do not match the “norm”. I want to ensure my language used is supportive and appropriate, that my questions come from a place of curiosity and not of assumption and that the person I am working with, feels valued, heard and accepted.
    Tileah’s phrase of “Ask don’t interpret” and to have practice of “welcome” really stood out to me. To me these are key to ensuring that my client feels accepted and valued for who they are and who they want to be. Hearing Tileah say we need to “Decolonise our mind” really makes you stop and reflect on what we have been taught is right and wrong, acceptable, not acceptable and how badly, society needs to continue to challenge those beliefs. So “Asking not interpreting” and having a practice of “Welcome” will be significant in expanding my knowledge and practice to embrace expansive genders and sexualities. Further to this, Pshko’s comment about “It isn’t about not making mistakes” and discussing it is how we respond, that we take responsibility for our mistake and own it, but then look at how do we rectify that mistake, back pedal on our mistake and reflect on what exactly you were wanting to ask and why and been transparent with the client about it, I think will be key in my practice and as I continue to learn and expand my knowledge and skill set.
    I am very lucky to work in an incredibly inclusive agency, where I will be able to draw on multiple skills and knowledge from my colleagues who have either lived experiences and/or learned through their own practice and can share their wisdom with me.

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    Anderson Oliveira

    The principle of ask, don’t interpret, for me is one of the main pillars of narrative therapies and I could see how difficult it is to follow since we are still impregnated by secular practices based on our own interpretations about the world and people. Being completely open to what the other brings us is very enriching, but also distressing and challenging because it is an attitude that at the same time will lead us to an enormous personal and professional growth, probably will deconstruct part of the world we believed to be “correct” if such a world exists. Both interviews were wonderful and show us how much we only have to gain when we allow ourselves to let go of the chains that bind us.

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    Megan M. Matthews

    Hi, I’m Megan (say it: MEE-gan), writing from Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

    – What does it say about your hopes, values and commitments as a practitioner that you are embarking on this course?

    As a self-described “erased bisexual/biromantic” woman (because I am married to a heterosexual/heteroromantic man) who is preparing to start a consciously and intentionally inclusive private counseling practice, my hope is that this course will provide me with an opportunity to deepen my insight about queer identity and how I can be not only accommodating but welcoming to all those who come to my practice because they are questioning, closeted, coming out, out but not accepted, and any/every other space on the continuum. As I state on my shiny new therapist listing (live as of yesterday!), I believe that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities; my counseling work is the demonstration of how I value this truth, and my commitment to uphold it.

    – What narrative practice skills and knowledges do you think will be most valuable in expanding your knowledge and practice to embrace expansive genders and sexualities?

    I think the narrative practice concept of unique outcomes/alternative stories will be extremely helpful as I continue this course, and will also be helpful in my private practice with regard to helping my clients navigate and integrate their transitions of identity without having to feel “stuck” in/with the more normative stories that others in their lives may have told them about themselves.

    – Who in your life might be able to accompany you or support you on this learning journey?

    My principal partners and companions on this journey, as in the rest of my life, are my magnificently supportive husband and my former husband/best friend. (Speaking of non-normative structures…) Also, I’m looking forward to the possibility of talking with a genderfluid young adult friend about the topics discussed in this course as well.

  9. Avatar

    Soumya Jagatdeb

    Going through Tileah Drahm-Butler and Pshko Marden’s video reaffirmed my hopes of becoming more and more affirmative in my practice with genders and sexualities in the capacity of a therapist and an individual. “Ask, not interpret” has been a value, especially in the field of mental health; however, there is a huge gap in implementing the value when it comes to genders and sexualities. It has taken a long time for the field to realise the intersection of gender, sexuality and mental health and I’d like to center the growing voices and counter discourses in my work as a practitioner.
    I value the belief that my practice should play a role in affirmative actions against a heteronormative culture and towards inclusive spaces, and narrative therapy offers significant ground to nurture the same. The skill and position of being de-centered yet influential itself fuels the intent to stay curious and expansive in language, thinking and approach. Skills like deconstruction have helped previously in breaking discourses subscribing to dominant gender and sexuality norms. Centering queer people’s voices is going to be the most important thing accompanying me in process of learning and unlearning and I hope to access the knowledge and skills even more through this course. My hopes are that the course will help me in fostering a therapeutice space which is more safe, secure and acknowledging of different gender and sexual identities as well as in questioning the rigid shackles of a heteronormative society that sustain problems. I look forward to the resources and reflective questions in stirring critical reflexivity, de-conditioning biases and prejudices and in decolonising oppressive and standard ideas around genders and sexualities.

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    Sanjana Mishra

    While awareness of preferred terminologies and of our own assumptions while working with expansive genders and sexualities (as was so clearly demonstrated in Pshko Marden’s video) is an important first step, the idea of having deliberate practices of respect and welcome towards the people we work with is such a unique and central part of queering therapeutic spaces. Tileah Drahm-Butler’s conversations with Howie and the small, simple questions about which boxes they wanted clothes from were particularly moving as a practice of welcome. Their simplicity as well as the fact that they immediately made the space a more comfortable one for Howie to share what they wanted to truly drives home the thought that making our therapeutic spaces queerer, more resistant, more decolonised does not necessarily need to involve massive steps or mountains of theory, but can begin with simple practices of welcome like sharing our pronouns in spaces where we interact with people, as parts of email signatures and so on, or with something like not making gendered assumptions about appearances or partners. I feel very strongly about the importance of small gestures such as these as a part of queering my own therapeutic space, and I think I would like to take these practices of welcome further as well!

    The principle of ask, don’t interpret is another thing that stood out for me, and something that I feel is closely linked to practices of welcome, openness, respect and taking action. The idea of transparency and honesty about mistakes and assumptions, and about addressing those mistakes and assumptions openly – as shared by Pshko Marden, “acknowledging that the assumption is not meaningful” – is something that also stayed with me as a very important part of therapeutic practice. This reminded me of Zan Maeder’s words in their paper on Queer Invitations (2020), “work to hold a tension between recognition and curiosity”. Holding on to curiosity in our work, especially as people explore and define what their gender identities and sexualities mean to them, while also balancing that with respect, understanding and drawing the line between curiosity and assumption might help hold space to ask questions and address mistakes. I look forward to moving forward and learning from the stories of practices and hard-earned knowledges shared by everyone in this course, as well as from the forums!

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    Kelsi Semeschuk

    In the interview between Pshko and Zan, I was drawn to one of the first things that Pshko said, which was: ‘I like the weirdness of the language that you’re using because I think that it comes with a lot of complexity, and having space for that complexity is absolutely something that is appropriate…’ This comment from Pshko was made in response to Zan saying ‘I was wondering, I know this language that I’ve been using of sexual and gender expansiveness is a bit weird….’

    This caught my attention because, I have heard many people say things like: ‘Why do folks in the LGBTIQ+ community need all these terms and/or weird language to identify themselves?’ And I think Pshko’s response to Zan was wonderfully on point, because it acknowledged that the use of this ‘complex language’ is not to try and sound ‘intellectual’ or ‘academic’ or ‘hard to relate to’ but rather, it is being used because what is being discussed is complex and outside of the norm of how we often speak about gender – and thus, is deserving, of complex language (or perhaps, language that exists outside of mainstream western ways of speaking about ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’).

    Pshko’s response to Zan also reminds me of the following quote from Michael White on the importance of language:

    ‘We have to be very sensitive to the issue of language. Words are so important. In so many ways, words are the world. So, I hope that a sensitivity to language shows up in my work with persons and, as well, in my writing’ (White, 1995, p. 30)

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    Kelsi Semeschuk

    I really enjoyed the interview between Zan Maeder and Tileah Drahm-Butler. Some of the phrases that particularly stood out to me as I watched the interview were:

    ‘There’s so much more story that we can be invited into… there’s so much more story available to us’ (when we don’t make interpretations or assumptions based on dominant discourses)

    ‘Ask, don’t interpret’

    ‘Actions of respect and welcome’

    What I learned from listening to Tileah speak about her interactions with Howie in the emergency department, was the importance of these ‘Practices of Welcome’ and the ways in which, ‘asking rather than interpreting’ can enable us to decolonize and/or queer our practice (that is, to step away from jumping to conclusions that are supported by dominant discourses in mainstream western and psychological realms).

    I was especially moved by the time that Tileah took to welcome Howie and how she asked what types of clothes Howie might prefer. This stood out to me because I can just imagine being in an emergency department setting in a hospital and how this sort of environment could invite a sense of ‘rushing’ or ‘getting things done quickly’. But then, Tileah’s story about her connection with Howie, tells a totally contrasting story, of Tileah offering Howie the tea, of Tileah asking how Howie would like to be referred to, of Tileah asking what would make Howie more comfortable (not assuming that clothes would do this), and of Tileah asking what types of clothing Howie would prefer.

    I think this story from practice was so helpful because the concept of ‘decolonising our practice’ and ‘queering our practice’ can feel so ‘big’ at times. But stories like this, that drop us into the minute-to-minute interactions, can help to make these ideas and practices come alive and more applicable.

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    Jake Peterson

    The non-blaming way you use ‘sneak into our practice’ is such a lovely way to put the attention back on discourses that have histories and come from somewhere … I appreciate this and it’s got me thinking about other things that sneak into practice!

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      boodika

      I liked your comment Jake Peterson, as that comment near the start of the video stood out to me too. To externalise our errors of thinking as something that could sneak in was wonderful and really fitted for me. We have all been subjected to main stream discourses for so long and for so many hours that it is inevitable that at times these views will surface unchecked in our work. Perhaps acknowledging that together with clients and inviting them to tell us when they see these discourses sneaking into the room would be a way of us addressing them together and putting them in their place.

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