Beginning to use narrative practices

In this final chapter we take some time to reflect on your learning and the next steps you might take in your journey with narrative practices.

 

 


 

Here we consider the process of beginning to engage with narrative ideas and practices. In this article Alice Morgan shares some of her thoughts:

Beginning to use a narrative approach

You will have found this exercise within the article for this chapter. We invite you to:

  • Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.
  • What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.
  • Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?
  • What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.
  • When you did it, what did you notice? How did it affect, for example:
    1. The conversation you were engaging in at the time?
    2. Your thoughts about yourself?
    3. The other people who were with you?
    4. Your hopes or plans?
    5. Your feelings?
    6. What was this like for you? Did you like it or not?
    7. Did it suit you or not? Or something in between?
    8. Why is it that you give this evaluation? What did it seem to fit with?

Please now share your thoughts and responses with others below!

 


 

To join with others in ongoing and further conversations you can visit:

Narrative therapy Facebook communities

For other avenues to learn and exchange ideas you can visit:

Training at The Dulwich Centre

International Narrative Therapy & Community Work Conferences

The Dulwich Centre Email News

International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

More detailed online courses in Externalising conversations and Re-membering conversations

 


 

Feedback:  Please provide us with your thoughts on how this course was for you or your hopes for future courses! We would really like to hear from you … thanks!  Email dcp@dulwichcentre.com.au

 


Certification Module

If you would like to receive a certificate for completing this course you can do so for a fee of $77. In order to qualify for this certificate you will need to:

  • complete a brief essay about narrative practice (1,000 words)
  • complete a short quiz with a passing grade of at least 80% (the quiz can be taken more than once).
Click here to take the certification module

 


Thank you for joining us on this journey.

We hope you have found this course helpful in some way!

We hope to see you again soon. 

This Post Has 81 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Caroline

    One thing that has particularly resonated for me in narrative ideas, is the practice of externalizing. Externalizing (putting the problem in the chair alongside the client), gives the client space to remember who they are. We can get to know their values, preferences, dreams, strengths and abilities without the limitation of the problem. The problem is the problem not the person. This will help us to uncover the ‘sparkling moments’. The value of this was bought home to me recently when after a counselling session I was left feeling like a failure. The therapist pointed out the things I hadn’t done that she had suggested. At no point did I feel like the expert, she hadn’t got to know me without my problem. Great learning experience, but potentially damaging too.
    Currently I am looking to include creative ways for clients to externalize the problem, like drawing, modelling, collage, blocks etc, something physical and tangible to further separate the problem from self, and an opportunity evoke curiosity. I would be very interested in discovering ways of working with the physical body too, perhaps somatic embodiment, yoga, dance or drama.

  2. Avatar

    christopher.sullivan

    Calgary, Canada

    I would say the biggest standout for me through this training is the notion that the person with whom we are working is the expert of their own life. If we are able to maintain this fundamental position while working alongside them, we are able to position ourselves to explore their story, support the development of alternative stories, create space to externalize problems and develop effective opportunities for collaboration. This notion of ‘person is expert’ has been developing with me through many years of my own growth and development. Who know’s me better than me? How do I feel when someone steps into my world and attempts to conduct my business via their thoughts and opinions? Plenty of people have plenty of thoughts about plenty of advices to share but any approach that doesn’t honour my own experience and beliefs is pretty quick to feel misaligned and disengaging. With all that in mind, how can I not give the same regard to those with whom I work?

  3. Avatar

    Henk Ensing

    The narrative concept resonates with me: the reciever of stories being open to the many views.

    Also, the accompanying shift, for the receiver of stories, from an essentialist approach. This seems to be one of the hallmarks of narrative work.

    Perhaps a stance can grow which is non-binary, a stance which offers legitimacy to the many stories of others. This stance invites a shift away from the questions of ‘is this truth’ or ‘is this right’ when receiving others’ stories. By offering legitimacy to the stories of others, and taking a decentred and influential posture, we can help clients explore their thinking while in our practices.

  4. Avatar

    misstaylorhalliwell

    The concept of Externalising Conversations was one of particular interest to me. I found it highly resonated with me. I believe this happened because it is something I had done sub-consciously between myself and my own psychologist that I used to visit. I vividly remember the psychologist being impressed by my ability to externalise my problem from myself. I was only able to do this when I was well on my way to healing.
    I love that now as a psychology graduate I can now employ this concept in a clinical practice between clients. In reflection of this principle, I aim to continue using it in my own life but also share the concept with coworkers, friends and family. I believe it is one of importance as the benefits can be life altering.
    What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.

  5. Avatar

    TashaRae

    Tasha Nelson, New Mexico-United States

    Throughout this process of becoming familiar with Narrative Therapy, one salient point comes to mind for me— if I had to name it I would call it “Excavation”. The process of working with people on excavating their narratives through questions and “challenging” has been an intriguing skill that I have been noticing seems to result in a different path for everyone. By “challenging”, I just mean the ability to be assertive in asking clarifying questions of clients, and/or pointing out certain contradictions in a non-judgmental and inherently curious way. I have been realizing that the only person who can fully and most clearly identify a clients narrative is themselves and I cannot, as a therapist, impose my own ideas about what words I think would best fit their narrative or their problems.
    I first noticed this during my therapy internship (which I am just completing) while working with someone with substance use issues. I was curious to understand what were the reasons for and against him partaking in alcohol to the point of being in physical danger. Through questions and further digging we were able to excavate the narrative that he is “the life of the party”. Once we began working with that and evaluating that excavation, he was able to state clearly that his preferred narrative would be to be “the sober life of the party”, “the good life of the party”, “the stable person”, “the good person”. Our session worked off of that, digging to map out the problem, and excavating his ideas and, eventually, future plans about the “good person/life of the party”.
    This experience made me feel great. I felt like there was actually conversation happening with my client and like I was helping, like I was doing something. I noticed the “light bulb” moment when he saw what narrative he was carrying around. Of course, there have been other moments I have had with other clients, and even this client, where I felt I wanted to have more finesse with Narrative Therapy…even some situations where I felt that starting off session in Narrative wouldn’t be as effective as starting off with another approach (ex. Grounding/more somatic work for someone living with intense anxiety). I am just hoping to learn more about narrative so that I can get comfortable with it and be an effective therapist.

  6. Avatar

    Ellie Firns

    Kaurna Yerta, Adelaide, South Australia.
    The playful curiosity, leading to opening deeper in story appeals to me about Narrative Therapy. It is an element that I have been aware of for a long time and learning about it here I see the threads of it that have woven through my life.
    Attention. Giving our attention to others, witnessing their story, allows for deep healing. Being listened to allows us to listen to our own story and find our strengths in the words we speak. Reflective listening is a significant part of this attention. I have noticed this principle at work in my early days of co-counselling, but I couldn’t name it then, nearly 30 years ago. It is only in coming back to co-counselling in the last 5 years that I have experienced the healing that comes from loving attention and thickening the stories of my life. I was getting pretty thin on my story for a while. I recognised that speaking my story to someone who had loving attention for me gave me space to heal and rediscover my story. The more they could see me, the more I could see myself. That is powerful. As a social work student, I am motivated by this is the sort of “aha!” moment. I want to inspire it in others.

  7. Avatar

    siobhan.neyland@gmail.com

    Siobhan, social worker, Wurundjeri Country (so-called Australia)
    An idea that has really resonated is the central idea about thin stories, thickening, the danger and the myth of a single story. And I could call this overall thing thickening, or even, complexifying, or deepening. For me, it’s sitting with someone in the ‘grey’, adding nuance, complexity, depth, negotiating contradictions and tensions, making space for multiple truths, making space for new, deeper truths to emerge.
    This idea was one of the first I was introduced to about narrative practice and it resonated so deeply. I saw this practice as an act of resistance in the context of a dominant culture that is totalising, generalising, homogenising, stereotyping, oppressive, over-simplifying. It felt important because it felt true, deeply true. That there is never one story, and any time we’re presented with a single story we can be sure there’s much more to it. That single, thin stories hide more than they reveal. It feels important because it feels true, liberatory, anti-oppressive, strengths-based, full of possibility and potential. It felt exciting for the way I view myself, my life, my work, the world, and it felt full of hope.
    While I’m not working as a social worker at the moment, I feel like I strive towards this approach in many domains in my life. Whenever I’m in a conversation or discussion and someone asserts a dangerously thin story, either of themselves, someone else, a group of people or anything else, I will endeavour not to contradict, but to complicate. To suggest more nuance, exception, stories behind the story. To gently point towards the danger of generalisation or oversimplification and all it can obscure.
    I think that this approach of thickening and complicating goes hand in hand with strengths-based practices that I’ve always tried to employ as a social worker. If someone I’m supporting presents a thin, negative narrative of themselves, I usually do not directly contradict them but rather try to carve out space in the conversation for different, stronger stories. I say what else? Yes and what else? Maybe this could be true but what else is true?
    I think that our dominant culture pushes us towards definite conclusions, black and white thinking, simple narratives. Things are never as simple as politicians and media and others with influence make them appear. I think this tendency in the mainstream means that we are unaccustomed to ambiguity and greyness, and therefore often uncomfortable with it. So I see a core skill of this work as the ability to sit in uncertainty with someone and invite them in, to not rush to solutions, certainty, resolution. To sit in contradiction and ‘the grey’ and see what emerges.
    When I’ve used this approach with people I’ve supported in past roles – I have found it creates more open, expansive conversations full of possibility. It makes me feel free as a worker but also decentred – I am curiously exploring and asking questions but do not presuppose the answers or have any idea where the conversation will flow to. It ignites hope because hope flows from uncertainty and possibility, and a conversation is truly a conversation when no participant really knows where it’s going to go – when those partaking are building and making meaning together, collaboratively.
    I love this way of working and I feel like it suits me. I’m a very curious and open-minded person, always looking for meaning, and I deeply enjoy conversation where I can make meaning and resonance with someone else. I feel like my curiosity and openness are strengths which I bring to the work and which resonate strongly with these narrative approaches.

    1. Avatar

      Ellie Firns

      Your words resonate so deeply with me Siobhan. Thank you for articulating them so well.

  8. Avatar

    Sami

    Hi, my name is Sami and I’m writing from a town near Kingston, ON, Canada.

    The image that is coming to mind, that represents all I have learned through this course, is the image of a ball that kids play with. As NTs we will take that problem, put it inside the ball, and toss it back and forth with the client as we talk about it, what it looks like, how it feels, where it came from, and whether they like the ball or not. Not only do we externalize it like that, we also turn it into a game, and so the specific word that comes to mind is “play.” We play and toss the ball back and forth and examine it. I’m wondering now if “play” can be a principle of NT, almost like this big problem has become a child’s toy that we can toss around and develop our own opinions of, and make light of even, perhaps. I’m not sure and I’ll be mulling over this as I do other Dulwich courses.

  9. Avatar

    TorCG

    Writing from Naarm
    I have been trying to actively involve the students I work with in the conversations that I have with them by asking if they are happy with how the conversation is going, if there is anything that they would prefer to not speak about, or if the topic of conversation is relevant to their concerns. This collaborative conversation assists in decentring the therapist as the expert and allows the person seeking therapy to take control of how the session is conducted according to their own needs. I first started doing it simply as a check-in at the end of a session, asking ‘how was this for you’ or ‘have we covered everything that you wish to talk about’. I now will ask throughout the sessions whether the student I am speaking with is happy with the topic of conversation and if my own conversational style is working for them. I found that students are sometimes taken aback by these questions as they are often not given the opportunity to express themselves in the way that these collaborative conversations allow them. I found that by asking these questions and allowing the student to take control of their narrative, they open up more about their feelings. I also found that by shifting my own focus to centre the student’s narrative, this helps me to advocate for students in other contexts, such as in meetings with their parents or teachers. I like how these collaborative conversations lessen the power imbalance between myself and the student, which I think is really important in a school setting, as students are already in a strict hierarchy of power, that I do not wish to replicate.

  10. Avatar

    Crystal Williams

    Throughout the course I could not get over how pleased I was with the idea of making the client the expert. How much it was a relief to hear about the concept of working collaboratively with the client and “scaffolding” your questions to make the client think more to resolve problems themselves.
    When I first read about “externalizing the problem behaviour”, I was questioning how this can be done in some cases and questioned if this technique would actually benefit the client. After talking about it out with one of the consumers I’m seeing, I was very impressed with the outcome. Right away it seemed like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders and he could put the problem aside as he focused on other parts of his day. I am so impressed with concepts of Narrative Therapy and am so excited to see how my practice will be in the future once I incorporate these concepts more often! (Vernon, BC, Canada)

  11. Avatar

    David Clayton

    Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

    If anything I believe that ‘River’ comes to mind in that we all have a pathway/river that we take, sometimes that pathway/river connects with others and sometimes it moves away. It is ever flowing, just like the energy we have as living organisms, it is never destroyed and can be forever there.

    I think what stood out for me the most is the move away from the standard and over used nature of the one story. In that it can be used to encase and encage all other stories that are out there. We need to be able to be the sponge that absorbs what others are saying when they are saying it, without the expectation that they should give their story. It could be sacred and something that they choose to give to a few. There is power in trust and connectedness when someone does choose their story and it should never be taken for granted or repeated without the story tellers permission.

    Another learning I had gained was the use of Mr/Mrs Care, there had been others, but believe that it is important to show other’s how care can exist and what it looks like. I also like the idea of externalising it, as it provides no hidden expectations. I think that sometimes we can over trust the people we think are caring or believe that they should be caring based on their relationship to us, but externalising does not place it on a particular individual. It gives an entity of it’s own.

    I currently cannot use the learning in practice, but feel if and when I use narrative therapy, it definitely has a place. I am excited to one day use it and really grateful to have been on this journey of self-discovery.

  12. Avatar

    Kylie Webster

    The information provided in this course has allowed me to evaluate how I approach my therapy sessions. I have determined that I will incorporate a collaborative approach into therapy sessions with an understanding of the client being the expert in their life. Another element of the narrative practice approach is the use of therapeutic documents. The other element of the narrative practice approach is the externalising of conversations which I have included as a part of my therapy sessions. I encourage clients to take ownership of their narratives and fully support them in this approach to their self-healing.

  13. Avatar

    Megan M. Matthews

    Megan (“MEE-gan”), writing from Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

    Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work. What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.

    The concept that has stayed with me throughout all the chapters of this training was from one of the first chapters: The debunking of the notion of the single story and the idea that everyone has multiple stories: the stories of how they see themselves as well as the stories imposed upon them by others, which may then influence the stories they believe about who they are. I have chosen to call this idea of each person having multiple interwoven strands of story inside them the “Story Tapestry”.

    Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?

    I’ve been telling stories and listening to stories for almost all my life. More and more I’ve been beginning to notice the impact – for good or ill – that the stories others tell us about ourselves have on the way we see ourselves, and how they have a way of narrowing our perception of who we are: “Addict.” “Sick Girl.” “The Smart One.” In my work with people living with Addiction (yep, I capitalized it; thanks to Alice Morgan for the validation!), I came to the conclusion that every one of my clients deserves more than the hopelessly thin single story that’s been foisted on them by seemingly every area of society, from the medical community and the law enforcement community all the way to the recovery community itself… and then I realized that it’s just not just those living with Addiction who deserve better than the limitation to a single story. We ALL do.

    What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.

    I’ve been focusing more and more with my clients on thinking about the times when they outwitted Addiction: walked away from a triggering situation; exercised their right to change their mind, or said to themselves out loud upon noticing a thought that could tangle them up and lead them to relapse, “Wait, what am I *thinking*?” I offer these occurrences as hard evidence from their own lives that Addiction doesn’t have the power over the client; that actually, it’s the other way around.

    When you did it, what did you notice?

    Some of them, after multiple repetitions, are actually starting to BELIEVE me – which, for this client population, is HUGE.

  14. Avatar

    debbie webster

    Using narrative practice as a decolonizing tool in therapy sessions and valuing the experience of the storytellers is a great way forward and honors the storytellers as owners of their own valued life experiences. This allows for a collaborative approach to therapy sessions. I see this as a very empowering approach to therapy and the potential for clients to be very involved in their therapy and healing.

  15. Avatar

    Kristen

    Hi all, writing from Ontario Canada.

    Two aspects or ideas of narrative practice that I have been incorporating more into my work are externalizing conversations and the use of therapeutic documents. Although I have found within my agency and context it is not always possible to practice in a purely narrative manner, I have found these two narrative ideas can be easily woven into my work. I particularly enjoy using therapeutic documents when thinking of termination with those I support. By being able to write a letter, incorporating clients progress, strengths, achievements, alternative stories, and new findings, it has been a lovely summation of the work and time we have put in together and is something they can take and use for further reflection. Additionally, I feel the therapeutic posture of being decentrerd but influential has been helpful in my journey as a new therapist, for I am able to enter a session, no longer feeling like I am pressured to provide the answers or know where to take the session. Rather, I am able to enter with curiosity, and with the client, go on a journey of exploration and meaning making.

  16. Avatar

    Sandra Owen

    I think If I was to consider a particular story that stood out for me I would think of paranoia, Janes’s story. The concept of collaboration in a session Using collaboration and externalization to empower someone to change how paranoia is affecting them. Externalization I believe is a principle construct of narrative therapy. My understanding is that finding a safe environment for Jane to collaborate to discuss paranoia is an important strategy to collaboration. I like the way that was highlighted in the story and then the discussions about externalizing and naming it to PS. I thought about how it resonated with my own fear of disappointing clients through my approaches. Setting the scene is appropriate to make someone feel safe and this I too consider as important. I notice myself doing that with someone. Getting someone to see a problem as separate from themselves I notice as being more helpful than just talking about it as it puts them to ease. Even though I worry I don’t I do these things well I know that my last session was started with a nervous person in front of me and quickly the environment and the interaction was strongly indicating collaboration with externalization. The conversation became warmer and the body language was not closed, leaning forward and relaxed. I felt warmth towards the discussion and listened more and made cues that were more representative of externalizing and it became more collaborative as a result. I was only with the client and hoped to keep the momentum. When the client moved to another subject as he realized how he could achieve his outcome I was mindful of keeping the focus on one goal at a time. From the experience, I felt more confident and was glad I chose this therapy for that situation as it had a very good result for me but more importantly for the client as was suggested. The client suggested the same principle for the next issues he wished to confront next time.

  17. Avatar

    Sandra Owen

    Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.
    Externalizing, it seems very easy but when in a session I sometimes wonder if my questioning is more complex than it needs to be.

    What would you call the principal or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words. My idea on how I am in a session, my obstacle to this is perhaps I overthink and should listen more. So I might call it an owl. I feel it is an owl that is pondering too much about getting it right and not about listening well. Mabey I could not think about what I should say and maybe I should just listen.

    Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you? I noticed this when I sit start to listen I start to think about what is the best way to question then I get all thinking too much then I realize I missed something and start thinking stop thinking.

    What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice. I have managed a better process of not thinking so much when I read examples then let it flow. I worry too much.

    When you did it, what did you notice? How did it affect, for example:
    The conversation you were engaging in at the time? Yes I see when I talked to my client today that I have seen before I felt more comfortable about listening.

    Your thoughts about yourself? I tend to see myself and having to be perfect rather than letting a flow occur.
    The other people who were with you? Just the client and me
    Your hopes or plans? To overcome this fear of not being perfect for someone
    Your feelings? mixed
    What was this like for you? Did you like it or not? I will consider this more as I think this line of questioning is good to analyze with
    Did it suit you or not? Or something in between? I feel narrative suits me but fear of messing it up needs to go
    Why is it that you give this evaluation? What did it seem to fit with? I believe my internal turmoil is safe to discuss now and It fits with my desired outcome.

  18. Avatar

    Alex

    Alex: UK
    Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.

    – Externalising

    What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.
    – ‘Manageable’ is the name I’d give it, because it allows someone to remove the problem from themselves, walk around it, pick it up, look at it from different angles, weigh it, decide what they want to do with it. It makes it ‘manageable’.

    Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?
    – This is still very new so I’ve not yet applied it in my work, although I’ll have opportunity to do so soon. It seems important to me in the same way Kelly’s ideas of nobody needing to be “a victim of their biography” seem important. It creates the possibility of alternative stories, understandings, and the possibility of applying skills and knowledge that the person already possesses.

    What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.
    – It’s still new, but I intend to practice externalising in an upcoming coaching session. But I can imagine how helpful it will be applying it to myself. When I find myself personalising problems, internalising them, I want to experiment with externalising them, and noticing the impact on my own mood, thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

  19. Avatar

    Kate Coomber

    Hi, Kate from Melbourne Australia.
    One thing that has particularly resonated for me has been externalising, and the expression that ‘the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem’.

    What would I call this principle or idea? I think at this point it’s hard to encapsulate with a catchy name because externalising and the conversations and actions flowing from it are very big concepts in themselves.
    For myself, I currently think of externalising as ‘meeting clients where they are’ and the axiom of ‘the person is not the problem’, as a guiding mantra from which all other actions spring. If I were to explain it to clients however, it would be quite different, it’s a little like lancing a wound and letting the infection release, but that’s not very friendly imagery! I think I would be encouraging clients to give their problem a name in sessions because they have ownership and investment in it and I would want them to feel their power in doing so.
    I have definitely been able to apply this at work in some instances. With clients in brief conversations, for example when they are talking about mental health issues impacting their living circumstances. Simple re-phrasing, ‘how long have you lived with the anger/depression etc.’, gives the conversation a different orientation. I notice clients adopt the language and speak more specifically about their issue, they might say ‘since secondary school in Year 10’, for example whereas previously they would say ‘I developed this in secondary school’. It may seem subtle but it is part of a shift in their thinking.
    And also with co-workers when they speak about clients, it’s been interesting to see how separating the person (client) from the problem, creates more space for a worker to really see clients as they are. It has been noticeable that workers engage with externalising and it leads to speculation about what their clients’ life might have been like without the problem and indeed what strengths they already have.
    It feels extremely valuable to work this way, giving clients an opportunity to see themselves differently. I feel this way because that’s how ‘the person is not the problem’ affected me when I first read it. I felt energised by the possibility of using this at work and in my personal life. I noted how externalising shows you that the ‘problem’ is also a product and part of one’s environment. Personally I had hard times when I was younger and if I had understood a label was only part of the story and indeed did not have to ‘stick’ I would have felt more potential and resilient in how I dealt with my issues.
    The other idea I have deeply connected with is encouraging people to tell their stories in a multi- faceted way, that thickens the narrative and is complex and not damage-centred. Everyone has a story to tell and that is common across all cultures. I am hoping to create opportunities for people to tell their stories in different empowering ways. Having read about the ‘suitcase narratives I can see huge potential for those clients attending the agency I work at who are from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

  20. Avatar

    flora.sugarman@gmail.com

    Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.
    One thing that has resonated with me particularly is the idea of externalizing and contextualizing problems. There are so many systems of oppression at play in our world, and externalizing a problem and placing it within societal contexts acknowledges this and facilitates healing

    What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.
    I would call this principle or idea “contextualizing problems within power structures”. It’s about pinpointing the ways in which the issues we face can be located within harmful aspects of our societies.

    Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?
    I first noticed this idea in thinking about my own eating disorder as a teenager. Contextualizing my struggle within systems of patriarchy and ideals of beauty associated with white supremacy was important to my own healing.

    What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice
    I am currently analyzing the systems and flows of power at play in all the work that I do. The times that I have felt this was done successfully have resulted in difficult conversations and concrete changes.

    When you did it, what did you notice? How did it affect, for example:
    The conversation you were engaging in at the time?
    It brings an important framework to any discussion and helps people understand the roots of the things we experience and feel. It can also rightfully so cause some feelings of hopelessness however

    Your thoughts about yourself?
    As a privileged white woman, often times these discussions cause a cognitive dissonance for me as I realize the ways in which my people and I have caused harm in so many peoples’ lives. However, I have grown to see these feelings as growth and opportunities to become a better accomplice to oppressed groups of people.

    The other people who were with you?
    These conversations can often make people uncomfortable and frustrated but also provide a sense of clarity in many ways.

    Your hopes or plans?
    It gave me a sense of urgency in my hopes and plans for social change in the future.

    Your feelings?
    As noted above, it caused a bit of cognitive dissonance and guilt, but this often leads to a sense of obligation and responsibility that can be exciting and purposeful.

    What was this like for you? Did you like it or not?
    Somewhere in between I’d say! It feels difficult but important.

    Did it suit you or not? Or something in between?
    Something in between!

    Why is it that you give this evaluation? What did it seem to fit with?
    It fits with my values and intellectual understanding of the world, but it is certainly a difficult unlearning and reckoning process.

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    Rebecca

    As an ex-teacher from Brisbane, Australia, I really appreciated the article written by Alice Morgan whose past profession as a teacher and her approach to Narrative Therapy resonated with me. Her practical and methodical advice on beginning as a Narrative Therapist was logical and significant. An important aspect of my work with teenagers initially involves Externalisation and the course has reinforced the value and benefit of this and other Narrative Therapy approaches for a range of situations.

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    Michele McCrea

    I’m Michele from Adelaide, Australia – Kaurna country. I live on the south coast near the Tjilbrucke Dreaming track.

    One thing that has particularly resonated for me in this course is the practice of developing responsive, collective documents to link and empower communities. I’d like to call these documents Living Texts, because they make us stronger and more alive. They are words to live by, but they are not set in stone, like so many collective documents of the past. Instead they can change and grow in response to people’s responses to them. Unlike those old ‘set in stone’ texts – the scripts of law and religion – these living documents are always subject to the scrutiny of those who use them, and they require us to think about our ideas, our actions, and how our words reflect them (or not). So they are alive, as well as being reminders of what makes us and our communities strong and healthy, and how we want to live.

    I was invited to facilitate groups for women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities to help them develop skills and understandings about wellbeing and healthy relationships. At first I was introduced as some kind of ‘expert’ and I didn’t like this at all! I tried many ways to refuse this role and to invite the women in my groups to bring their own expertise to the topic of ‘wellbeing’. When this began to work, and the women started to speak about what wellbeing meant for them, I was naturally drawn to document their ideas, first on a whiteboard and then in electronic and paper forms. Then I was taking this course as a refresher (because I had been lucky enough to do the introductory course with Michael White in 2001), and I realised these documents were a powerful resource and that more could be done with them. So I took them back to the original groups and asked for their responses. They added more ideas. And I asked, could we distribute these documents more widely? Can we give them to other groups who might find these ideas useful? And the responses were overwhelmingly positive!

    So now I am wondering, what next? I can see enormous potential to develop these practices further with the communities I am working with, and to link these communities in ways that will strengthen and inspire them.

    I have realised from these experiences over the past 6 months that it is good to have a plan, to know what I want to achieve, and at the same time to invite leadership and ideas from the people I am working with. I think I’ve got better at doing this, and still have a lot to learn as I try out my ideas and get feedback. The more I listen, and ask the right questions, the more I learn. It’s very exciting to see the beginning of something happening that makes people feel stronger and happier in themselves in spite of challenges and difficult circumstances. These practices of creating collective Living Texts fits with my ideas of justice and equity, and with my purpose of supporting people to find and live from their own wisdom and creative spirit.

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    Chrissy Gillmore

    • Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.

    Externalising

    • What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.

    Leveraging the problem off the person

    • Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?

    When I re read the quote, “the Problem is the problem, the person is not the problem.
    It was important because I could find a wedge to use so that the problem and the person could have space between them. I could find a way to increase the space and in a way support the client to use this with their discourse – collaboratively

    • What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.

    Using ‘the’ and putting adjectives between the problem and the person. Finding ways to consider the effects of the problem, what the problem is, ways to find out why they don’t want the problem in their lives, and finding values. I found a shining light and a glimmer of hope between the person and the problem.

    • When you did it, what did you notice? How did it affect, for example:
    1. The conversation you were engaging in at the time?
    • With a student about their dad getting angry
    1. Your thoughts about yourself?
    • I felt proud about how I was working with the externalising
    1. The other people who were with you?
    • Client
    1. Your hopes or plans?
    • To use this and also use humour
    1. Your feelings?
    • Proud, happy, excited
    1. What was this like for you? Did you like it or not?
    • great
    1. Did it suit you or not? Or something in between?
    • Yes and I found that I was collaborating, not giving advice opinions. The client was the author and I was decentred.
    1. Why is it that you give this evaluation? What did it seem to fit with?
    • Because it created room and space between the client and the problem It became less of an issue and it was deflated. We also found ways to look at the systemic side of the issue too and further de centre the problem.

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    alexandra.m.cameron@gmail.com

    I really enjoyed taking this course! I only knew a little about narrative therapy, but was interested in getting some training in it. My supervisor recommended this course, and I am very happy to have taken it! While it was all online, I appreciated that there were videos, presentations, articles, and other forms of learning to engage in while completing the modules. I am looking forward to trying out narrative therapy in my own practice! Externalising the problem was one of the ideas that resonated with me the most, I think it really creates an ownership of individuality among the client, and helps to get the blame placed off of them. The problem externalized becomes something that the client can actively work on without feeling any shame or guilt. There are other ideas that I enjoyed, but I think this is what stood out the most to me!

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    Rebecca

    I thoroughly enjoyed this module. It has been so interesting and applicable, not only to my work but to my personal life, when applying principles like externalising and coming up with our own narratives of strength and hope. I struggle with some anxiety and anger issues and externalising has helped me view it not as a personality issue but a problem in itself.

    I am excited to use the ‘tree of life’ ideas in my work as a creative art instructor to promote mental wellness in the community, I am hoping to get people to tell their stories through art, through writing book. Currently, I get children to draw and write their reflections in an art book but I hope to make it more intentional in sharing more in-depth and using the ‘outsider-witness’ idea to encourage each other.

    In terms of communicating with others, I am now especially more sensitive and thoughtful of my own privilege when speaking to others and also wanting to be more curious about their narratives rather than wanting to give advice.

    I do hope I use the principles correctly! It is going to be an exciting journey!

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    Pierre Matthee

    Pierre Matthee, Johannesburg, South Africa. I would really like to acknowledge the efforts of those who compiled this course. Thank you. There have been so many areas that stood out for me. My goal is to become less dominant, but still influential. I realize this is a constant work in progress, but a journey I am so exited to be on. One of the sections I really want to incorporate more in my practice, is that of documentation. As a social worker, specializing in health and clinical related matters, I have the privilege of working with sickness on a daily basis. By documenting patient’s stories, the dream is to help others that find themselves in a similar situation. The vision is that hope will speak to those who read the stories!

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    Carol Tsang

    Hi. Greetings from Hong Kong. The application that I appreciated the most within the Narrative Therapy is externalizing the problem in daily life. I will give a name for this idea, “Finding the Unique Moment.” I, as the practitioner of Narrative Therapy, would like to use this opportunity to join and explore others’ life journey together. The good news is we could try zooming out and focusing on the full picture instead. Identifying there might be many potential parts we missed. Opening ourselves up to wider possibilities. Since I got a chance to take a course in Narrative Therapy 2 years ago, I found that idea or principle of Narrative Therapy is inspiring. For instance, re-telling one’s story and externalizing a problem might give them a different perspective on it. In my perspective, the traditional counseling is directing people to focus in one particular thing (eg. the past, the problem, the family etc.). Narrative Therapy is a little bit different. It helps people to find their own skills and their own expertise areas then it could strengthen them and lead them finding their own preferred identity. Instead of fixing the problem.

    Recently, I talked to my friend on the phone. She is a mother of two young kids (so do I) . She told me she felt discouraged and frustrated when she saw the kids did not help typing up at home. Then, I asked her, why this “tidying up” is so important to her ? How does it affect you and the kids ? Then, we found out the meaning of this for her is “Wanted Everyone to Be Happy living in this home.” Then, we zoom out and not focusing on this particular thing. We talked about what will bring her husband and kids joy at home? A clean house or a happy mom? We were trying to find a balance spot to stand. I used her goal to find a different perspective. She was energized after this conversation. I felt that is amazing to give other energy to think about the issue again. My hope is accompanying people to find a better way out in life. It may not make the problem go away, but it might give a different perspective on it. I felt I am encouraged too because I am trying to open myself up to wider possibilities too. My friend felt good because she could honest to herself and shared with me her feelings. Reflection is needed for everyone. Overall, I like this ad-hoc conversation, the most important thing is that she is ready to move a step and is open for different ideas we shared. I think the person whom you chose to talk with is significant because he/she might lift you up or pull you down. Always need to respect others’ own view. Then, we need to be patient while walking with them.

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    hobson.paul@gmail.com

    Hi…Paul Hobson from Sudbury, Ontario Canada. The one thing that has resonated with myself during this interesting and amazing course is the externalization of the problem. What has stuck with me is how much easier it is to challenge and take on something that you see as not being connected to you, but in seeing it as an outside force that is trying to make its way into your life and when it does, it tries to change lives in a negative way. Even with myself, there is usually a level of hesitation and doubt when it comes to trying to change something that I associate with myself as a person and there are many reasons for this. However, when I externalize this problem and see it as an outside source trying to sneak its way into my daily life, my relationships, etc…it then becomes something I want to look at and simply tell off. This might be a much simpler way of looking at what is a complex and important tool in narrative therapy, but who is to say that everything needs to be complicated?

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    abder1441

    Abderrafie from Morocco.
    When people are immersed in a problem story, they become fatalist and just could not see any light at the end of tunnel. One of my aims for taking this course was to show others what they are living is just one option among others, and there are alternative options. A person is cured when he believes he can write a new story: a story of hope and trust.
    Without these two ingredients (hope and trust), you are frozen and stuck. This apply to individuals as well as for communities.
    In many sessions, I was feeling two voices arguing and debating fiercely: What I call the devil’s voice ( you are lost and no power in the world could change this) and the Angel’s voice ( you can kindle a new light).
    I am planning now to do some training for a group of people, and to get some personal training.

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    Jocelyn Phelps

    Jocelyn Phelps from Paris, France. One thing that resonates with me now as we start to come out of the Covid crisis is the idea of a community taking charge of telling its story. We have been very busy during the crisis, changing the way we work and taking care to be sure our people are safe, yet there is a real desire now to step back and create something new, a different way of working going forward.
    I would say that this version of collective narrative practice, in which a group of people who have been through something and want to tell the story, could be called “collective intelligence to build the world after”. That sounds grand, but the idea is simple – we all feel we have been through an exceptional period, but we need to put it into words. Then we can work with it to determine what we want to keep from our experiences and carry forward, and what we want to leave behind.
    This is work in progress, but the need to do something along these lines (for our HR teams and coach teams, and for the businesses we support) began to appear after about a month of confinement, as we started to see how our world was changing and realized that we could make choices about what would happen after the confinement ended. This resonated so much with everyone involved, even people who don’t usually care for “soft topics”, that it was obvious we had to do something.
    Today we are experimenting. We are doing simple, small-group exercises, using online tools because we still cannot bring people together in a room. In itself this is an experience of bringing past experince into a reflection about the future. Sometimes I would like to go further, to leave more space for emotions and dreams, not just work ideas.Interestingly, when I see people getting angry because the process is going by too fast or not being respected, I realize how important these conversations are.
    I myself seem to be creating space for the conversations but have not yet taken time to have one myself.
    Other people involved are amazed at how clearly the ideas are expressed, how sharp the desires are.
    My hope is that we can create another level of dialogue in our organizations, letting in more intuition and awareness of the broader system, not just individual desires.
    My feelings about the process are mixed, because they reflect some ambiguity in the organization and in the world at large. We want to move forward, we want to “get over it”, and yet we are fairly sure we won’t get another opportunity to stop and reflect on our work and personal lives in this way in the near future.
    So my evaluation is that we are doing this interesting work, but perhaps with uneven degrees of commitment and self-revelation. This lets me see how challenging it is to do this work well.

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    Veronica Figarella

    I recently use a document of knowledge to help a person remember all the values and good personality traits she used to defend her and her family in a very dangerous situation. The outcome was a beautiful piece of art she produced, since I suggested that she could use any for of expression to document what she has learned about herself during this hard experience. She made a beautiful painting that she has hanged on the wall of her bedroom, so she remembers everyday when she wakes up and when she goes to bed, about all her talents.

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    Anita

    Anita from Singapore. The one thing that has particularly resonated with me is externalization. Externalization for me is not just separating the person from the problem but liberating the person from an intrinsic connection with their problem which completely changes theor perception of who they are. As an SF practioner I was familiar with the concept of externalization and had used it before. I always found it effective when working with children and adolescents. I am particularly interested in the creative uses of externalization with toys, art etc that can be used in therapy. This course took me deeper into the concept of externalization and gave me the contextual background for externalization which has been very helpful. I have used externalization with young children particularly with regard to behaviours such as rage. When the rage was externalized to an animal or character that lived outside the child, it seemed to make sense for the child to know over a period of time how and when to change the behaviour, once they realised that “it ” didn’t live inside of them and they had the skills to overcome the animal or character’s influence. I always thought that externalization would not be as effective with adults as with children and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was. I started a conversation using externalization with an adult client when nothing else seemed to help, and found my client’s body language change completely in session once she saw herself as being able to talk about the problem as a different entity from herself. I realised then how mistaken I was in limiting the application of externalization. I think it drew my attention to the fact that all of us want to believe that we all want to be seen as who we are and not the problems that others have labelled us as having, regardless of age. Externalization is definitely something that I would like to take a deep dive into to understand the nuances of the process to do full justice to it. Narrative therapy aligns so well with the Solution Focused approach and I can see how they complement one another and work form the same space of co-creation, collaboration and the preferred future or alternative story. I have learnt so much and have been introduced to the world of narrative therapy through this course, a journey that I would like to continue to explore. Thank you

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    sineadtwomey2004@gmail.com

    I am interested in many aspects of narrative therapy, the one I chose to consider in my reflection is Externalisation. Externalisation allows the person to see themselves as separate from the problem and this space allows one to take a stance , a position and to consider the impacts on their lives. This can create a shift, a realisation and new knowledge as well as a strong reaction emotionally when taking a position to the problem.
    A client I recently worked with named many problems over a few conversations but one description kept coming up. When I repeated this description back to him, it was like a light bulb moment! He was surprised at how prevelant this problem is in his life and he was angry that it could take such a hold. This emotional reaction led him to take a very strong position and led to conversations where we could talk about his preferred position and stories. The work is ongoing but the light bulb moment is often referred to when we talk and continues to motivate him.
    For me I feel motivated to continue to learn about Narrative therapy and to use it in my practice. Alice Morgan describes focus areas when beginning to use narrative therapy and this is a useful starting point. I am focusing on externalisation, position of therapist and unique outcomes. I focus on certain cases in a case study type of model and after meeting with clients, I reflect on responses to questions asked and plan questions for the next session. My hope is that I will become more skilled as time goes on in asking the scaffolding questions and developing my practice in Narrative Therapy.
    I have really enjoyed this course and will certainly be accessing the publications and further training.

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    Mercy Shumbamhini

    I am Mercy Shumbamhini, from Harare, Zimbabwe. I found narrative practices resonating with my own commitments and goals for my work and way of life. Externalization seeing the problem as the problem and the person as the person and narrative questions which put people’s abilities, views, preferences, values, desires, hopes, dreams and purposes in the center of the conversation and collaborative practices which sees people as experts in their life are very significant to me. These changed my ways of being, thinking and doing. When I started using externalizing conversations in my work with children, I had to shift the words which I was using, the way I asked questions and the language I used in conversations. This took some time and the results were amazing. With regard to collaboration, the children came up with the phrase, nothing for us without us. I did my doctoral thesis with children using narrative practices and the children wrote their own chapter in this thesis. My hopes and dreams are to continue learning with people in co-creating and making our world a warm and safe place for all humanity and creation. Thank you for sharing this course. It was such a great joy for me to participate in this course.

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    Anna Kumets

    Several things resonated quite strongly in a narrative approach. One of the most important ideas for me is that a person is the main expert in his life. This idea is encouraging, because if we have an expert on the situation, then we can always solve it. This approach eliminates the desire to give advice.

    I myself would call this thing the “principle of trust.” If each person is an expert in his life, then I should trust this other, in that he is able to do what? Correctly? Optimal? Best for yourself in this situation. Probably so. And accordingly, I show the same confidence to myself.

    When I began to look for study options for my son, and options for moving, I realized that no one except me and him was not able to fully understand what exactly we want. Other people can give hints, but only I can know which one to choose.

    I am talking with my son to find those solutions that will suit him, not counting on what I can know better.

    I begin to feel safe, guided by this idea. I stop being afraid to make the wrong decision, and instead immerse myself in researching what I really know. I take less responsibility for other people, trusting them to make their own choices. I feel so much calmer. I am less involved in other people’s problems. I am able to be near, without pressure. Instills in me faith in people and in myself.

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    John

    • Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.

    The issue which most resonated with me is that of externalisation – the quote, the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem

    • What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.

    The principle behind the idea of externalisation is ‘openness’ to try and put aside judgmental thoughts and biases and focus on the issues which are causing the problem – at this stage I will call it OPEN!

    • Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?

    The importance of externalisation, is that it gives the client, counsellor, supervisor, the ability to segregate, analyse and re-construct.

    • What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.

    This is an interesting question as I am currently in lockdown due to the virus and looking forward to resuming counselling sessions and working with the street pastor movement. Therefore the answer could be negative, but the fact that I am engaging in this course, and others, during the lock down to continue to develop my skills, knowledge and experience is a manifestation to the philosophy of externalisation

    Thank you for the privilege of sharing this course.

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    Pamela Reid

    Pamela from New Zealand

    • Think about just one thing that has particularly resonated for you about narrative ideas and practices that you have been trying to apply more in your work.

    Externalising stories

    • What would you call the principle or idea? Give it a name. Say something about it – describe what it is about, your understandings of it, in your own words.

    My ‘Main Character’ technique where I have the person identify and describe their younger self. I have them give the character a preferred nickname (something they would choose rather than one they have been given by somebody else), then write about the character in third person. They inevitably became more descriptive and more objective.

    • Give some more details about it, e.g.: When did you first notice this idea or principle in the work? What told you that it was important to you?

    I had been teaching older people to write their personal histories and found that they were often overcome by the writing process so I changed it to having them remember short, simple stories. Many still struggled with putting their stories into first person so I had them describe themselves as another character. This got immediate response and more objective perspective and better descriptive writing. The Main Character resonated with me and them.

    • What are you currently doing that you would say is a reflection of this particular idea, practice or principle? Say a little bit about the times you thought you had managed to apply the idea or principle to your own practice.

    I am now using the same ‘Main Character’ principle in working with Pacific Island youth. I have them write their stories but with a view to writing them for a younger audience who are learning to read. This seems to give more purpose to their writing while remaining objective.

    • When you did it, what did you notice? How did it affect, for example:
    1. The conversation you were engaging in at the time?
    The youth I was working with was being very negative about writing till I shared this approach. He immediately began to verbalise things he would want to share with his younger siblings, things he wanted them to learn, especially about sport and self-discipline. I had him draw the character as well as this was a special talent and interest.
    2. Your thoughts about yourself?
    I was excited to see his response and kept asking questions that built his descriptions and the plan for his ‘book’ rather than just a story.
    3. The other people who were with you?
    Another boy was there, another reluctant student, but he became engaged and was offering suggestions while also encouraging his friend on the scope of his story.
    4. Your hopes or plans?
    To take this concept to many students throughout the Pacific Islands. To help them recognise the value of their personal stories and beliefs and how they can benefit younger children with them.
    5. Your feelings?
    I feel as if I’ve been on a journey for many years, starting 15 years ago with a strong desire to complete my Masters with a thesis on ‘Building Bridges: How a Minority Culture Speaks to Itself through its Literature’. I loved writing and I felt a need to assist others who really didn’t enjoy the process.
    6. What was this like for you? Did you like it or not?
    I loved the process, especially with learning how to deal with trauma through writing. I also felt prompted to create a research paper which I called ‘Grandparent-Ink’ that led me to help many grandparents in the intervening years. I felt that I was connecting generations of families in the nicest possible way, through stories.
    7. Did it suit you or not? Or something in between?
    It suited my vision and my personality.
    8. Why is it that you give this evaluation? What did it seem to fit with?
    It is interesting to make this evaluation and to realise how well this journey has allowed me to realise my purpose in life generally. I love writing books for all ages but I enjoy helping people write their stories, even more.

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    tonyandjo42@icloud.com

    I have found many aspects of the Narrative approach interesting and hope to be able to begin to use this way of working in partnership with clients. One that resonated particularly quite recently was the ethnographic imagination which David Epston writes ‘ you seek the versions of how they go about the living of their lives’, this came to my mind when supporting a woman who had experienced multiple losses.Acknowledging that I could only imagine what it was to ‘walk in her shoes’ began a meaningful conversation about the part that ‘courage’ was playing in her life.

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    sonya.deol@outlook.com

    My name is Sonya Deol and I am a victim services worker in Toronto, Canada. Some things that have resonated with me about narrative ideas is externalizing conversations, positionality of the therapist, mapping stories, and creating alternative narratives. If I had to choose one thing it would be externalizing. I would call externalizing “Creating Distance”. Creating Distance is about separating yourself from the problem that you feel is influencing you. It is about taking the power away from the problem and reinstating it with the person. It speaks to acknowledging the control you have in your life. I noticed this idea in my studies and in my own experience with therapy. My therapist explained the concept of using The Anxiety as a means to externalize the problem. I didn’t realize that was an aspect of narrative therapy at the time. I had never heard of describing a problem this way and I felt it was important because I had always felt that The Anxiety was a part of me that I had to learn to live with, rather than a separate entity that I could control. I am personally trying to visualize The Anxiety as an object, such as a shadow that I can physically push away. In my own practice, I have had less chances to apply this idea because I work with people on a short term basis. I am starting to become more aware of trying to use it, such as stating “the trauma” instead of your trauma. I hope to have more opportunities to apply externalization with people I work with because it makes the individual feel that the trauma is something that happened to them due to certain events instead of them internalizing blame and feeling they were responsible for it happening. It helps in not victimizing the individual. My hopes were that there is less stigma around identifying a person as their problem and instead understanding the story behind it.

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