Collaboration & Accountability

Narrative practices respect people as the experts of their own lives. As such, our expertise is not in how we deliver ‘interventions’, but in how we provide a context, through a scaffolding of questions, that makes it possible for people to become more aware of their own skills and knowledges and how to use these to address difficulties they may be facing.

We have included here a diverse collection of resources about the sorts of collaborations that are a key aspect of narrative practice.

 

 


Amanda Worrall is a mental health nurse in the Northern Territory (Australia). This presentation tells the story of how June and Amanda found ways to use externalising conversations to name and speak about social paranoia (SP). It also describes the ways in which these conversations enabled June to reclaim her life from the effects of paranoia. This presentation was filmed at Dulwich Centre at the International Spring Festival of Narrative Practice that took place from September 21-23, 2011.

 


Narrative therapy and community work practices engage what has come to be called a ‘Decentred and Influential’ position from which we can work with people. In this extract, Michael White describes this therapeutic posture.

Michael White Workshop Notes

The Four Quadrants

  De-Centered Centered
Influential De-centered and influential (potentially invigorating of a therapist) Centered and influential (potentially burdening of therapist)
Non-influential De-centered and non-influential (potentially invalidating of therapist) Centered and non-influential (potentially exhausting of therapist)

It is the intention of the therapist to take up a “decentred and influential” posture in conversations had with the people who consult them – to develop therapeutic practices that make it possible for him/her to occupy the top-left quadrant. The notion “decentred” does not refer to the intensity of the therapist’s engagement (emotional or otherwise) with people seeking consultation, but to the therapist’s achievement in according priority to the personal stories and to the knowledges and skills of these people. In regard to the personal stories of people’s lives, in the context of this achievement, these people have a “primary authorship” status, and the knowledges and skills that have been generated in the history of their lives are the principal considerations.

The therapist is influential not in the sense of imposing an agenda or in the sense of delivering interventions, but in the sense of building a scaffold, through questions and reflections, that makes it possible for people to:

a) more richly describe the alternative stories of their lives,

b) step into and to explore some of the neglected territories of their lives, and to

c) become more significantly acquainted with the knowledges and skills of their lives that are relevant to addressing the concerns, predicaments and problems that are at hand.

 


 

In this paper by Sue Mann we examine ways of documenting that draw on collaborative practices, with particular reference to writing medical records.

‘Collaborative representation: Narrative ideas in practice’ | Sue Mann

 


The Just Therapy Team, from The Family Centre, Wellington, New Zealand, consists of Warihi Campbell, Kiwi Tamasese, Flora Tuhaka and Charles Waldegrave. Their highly respected work, which involves a strong commitment to addressing issues of culture, gender and socio-economic disadvantage, has come to be known as Just Therapy. These practitioners and their work significantly influenced narrative therapy and community work responses to accountability.

Extract from ‘Just Therapy’


This presentation by Tileah Drahm-Butler aims to bring forth conversation on the ways that narrative therapy can be used as a decolonising practice, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and skill in resistance is honoured and talked about in a therapy setting.Tileah is a Social Worker in a hospital setting, currently working in Emergency Department and Intensive Care Units. She completed the Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work in 2014 and is passionate about finding ways to describe Narrative Therapy practices in ways that are culturally resonant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Furthermore, in the work that Tileah does, she continues to learn alongside the people who she meets to create and re-create narrative practices that are culturally resonate, and that are shaped by cultural and spiritual practices.

Decolonising Identity Stories | Tileah Drahm-Butler

Tileah-Drahm-Butler

 


 

 

For Reflection

 

In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?

 

What might make it hard to enter into these practices?

 

If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?

 


 

Please now join with others in reflecting on these questions and other wonderings below! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks!


This Post Has 182 Comments

  1. Avatar

    misstaylorhalliwell

    Adelaide- South Australia!

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    Most of my collaboration has just been work related as a manager in a retail store. These collaborations were possible as we all shared a common goal.
    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    Collaboration can be challenging if one has biases and not an open mind. Protection of each other can raise some difficulties.
    This could be hard if individuals share different view points or beliefs
    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work? I could begin by discussing different goals around the work place no matter how big or small and being collaborations towards achieving that.

  2. Avatar

    JM

    Collaboration is very important when working with clients for many reasons but primarily it works to balance out power dynamics in the therapeutic relationship. Clients feel like they are constantly in situations that dis-empower them and make them feel helpless. When we approach our therapeutic relationship that is client-centered we ensure that the client is in control of their own recovery or problem solving process. We also create pathways of learning more about our client and their resiliency, talents, and strengths. We show up in a respectful way seeking to influence but not be centered in the therapeutic process.

  3. Avatar

    Glynis Thorp

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?

    I am from the Australian outback and I work in remote environments and also in the telehealth space.
    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    Possibly limited time to spend with each client and also the long assessments that are required when clients are referred into the service.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I have been fortunate to attend several workshops with trainers from the Dulwich Centre in the past and i had forgotten how many strategies that I use from what I have learnt in the past. I really do not think I know it all though and i am very keen to learn more and I want to make sure i am doing the best to help my clients. I will certainly take away many skills and found the session of externalizing paranoia very helpful. There were some wonderful lessons and strategies in this session. So more study may be on the agenda!

  4. Avatar

    CheleneG

    Chelene Groube – Emerging social worker far north QLD.
    Firstly I want to start by saying I found it very insightful how Amanda discussed the power of the client being the expert of their experiences and how to use and unpack this with the client in reflecting on descriptions, items, and feelings that come along with their discussion of interest by doing this I can see the importance of then how it is a good tool to use to understand as a practitioner to best support the individual.

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?

    I’d like to reflect on this question because my type of clientele is mostly mandated or involuntary participants so how I adapt narrative practises in this climate. I like to hope that my use of self and the use of this practise allowed to close a little bit of the gap that is a challenge in this scenario, also I find working in a multi discipline team and informal discussion around how to better our organisation and daily practise is important and to try an involve the client in their own decision-making process as much as possible and to be transparent and non-judgmental in any circumstance and to keep myself accountable as a practitioner with my own supervision.

  5. Avatar

    Siobhan

    Siobhan, social worker, Wurundjeri Country

    I really appreciated all the resources in this unit. All of Sue Mann’s reflections about note-taking, language, record keeping and collaboration were so resonant. I have often in different roles been painfully aware of the power that my words can have as I write case notes – the power I wield in shaping a narrative of someone else’s life. I think Sue’s practices of writing notes collaboratively are so powerful and clearly hold enormous potential. Something I love is how these practices so powerfully resist the norms of the heirarchy in a medical setting and really lay bare the power imbalances present in settings such as this and many others. This practice pushes us all to reflect on the language we use, the power our words have, and to question our investment in heirarchies and whether we can let go of power.

    I also really liked the words from the Just Therapy team – they beautifully articulate so many important ideas about the need to think collectively about social ills rather than locate problems in the individual as mainstream psychology and medicine so often does.

    Finally, I loved Tileah’s discussion of the importance of creating space to resist what she calls ‘damage-centred stories’. When she mentioned that yarning with an individual must still connect with the collective and the bigger picture, it resonated with the ideas from the Just Therapy team about connecting the experiences of people with broader structures and forces.

    I feel that in past roles I have looked for ways to work collaboratively in certain ways. I have always tried to employ a person-centred approach and this has led me to view my role as walking alongside and working with in a collaborative way. I have tried in the relationships I have had with people I’ve supported to set up the dynamic as if I am in the passenger seat and they are the driver. I might create a space to discuss where they want to drive next and how they might want to get there, and what navigation assistance I might be able to provide, but ultimately they make the decisions that feel right for them. I feel that this type of working was actively encouraged some of the organisations I’ve worked for and so the skills, advice and knowledge of colleagues and supervisors helped me to sharpen my approach.

    However I can see that in certain practice contexts certain limits may by placed on these practices of collaboration. I think that whenever there is risk, or in settings that are more hierarchical, these limits are going to be more pronounced. Child protection, involuntary mental health services, corrections, hospitals are some examples that come to mind. As Sue demonstrated, that is not to say that collaboration is not possible, but the more hierarchical and risk-averse the institution is, the more challenging it will probably be to collaborate in this way. I think this is because workers, even if they start out with these ideals, risk getting inducted into these structures and norms and lose sight of the preferred ways of working. As worker we must be vigilant in this sense to ‘systemic collusion’ – colluding with practices and norms that are harmful and oppressive within the systems we work within.

    I would like to continue to think about how collaboration can be built into my practice and applied to different future roles. I plan to continue to research these methods for inspiration and seek guidance from supervisors about how to embed these practices.

  6. Avatar

    Manpreet Kaur Mann

    I am a social work student, and I am studying at university of Wollongong NSW Australia.

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    I have entered into collaborations through working in a team with clients and staff members. Now, I am doing a placement at Refugee Health Service where I am talking with the clients in a culturally responsive manner with them to use proper sensitive language to develop the capacities of the clients from Refugee backgrounds. These collaborations are helpful for building trust and rapport with the clients in my practice.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    I think the power imbalance between myself and the clients from Refugee backgrounds can might hard for me to enter into these practices. This is because I can take all the authority to influence the clients to collaborate in the conversation.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I think that I can build CALD community groups that can make collaborate with the CALD community for motivating them for their rights and for getting health services to live a better life.

  7. Avatar

    Manpreet Kaur Mann

    I am a social work student, and I am studying at university of Wollongong NSW Australia.

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    I have entered into collaborations through working in a team with clients and staff members. Now, I am doing a placement at Refugee Health Service where I am talking with the clients in a culturally responsive manner with them to use proper sensitive language to develop the capacities of the clients from Refugee backgrounds. These collaborations are helpful for building trust and rapport with the clients in my practice.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    I think the power imbalance between myself and the clients from Refugee backgrounds can might hard for me to enter into these practices. This is because I can take all the authority to influence the clients to collaborate in the conversation.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I think that I can build CALD community groups that can make collaborate with the CALD community for motivating them for their rights and for getting health services to live a better life.

  8. Avatar

    briannajarv

    I love the story of the man whose name I do not know. As a social worker in a hospital setting, it is all too easy to buy into these dominant narratives about people being “deliberately difficult” or “unwilling” to accept help. I love the practice of engaging people in documenting. I must confess that even while I was reading through this, I was generating reasons and excuses as to why I couldn’t practice in that way – “it really just wouldn’t work for me” – with time and funding constraints, pressures from the medical team. It is an ongoing battle that we, as practitioners and advocates, cannot ever stop fighting. We need to be thinking creatively and opening up these ways for people to contribute meaningfully and have their stories heard! Involving people in documenting their own experiences, or at least offering them the ability to do so, is a simple yet incredibly powerful way of collaborating and facilitating autonomy on the journey of healing.
    I think that for me, incorporating these practices into my day is going to mean developing partnerships and finding allies. I am fortunate enough to work with a number of progressive doctors and nurses, who are driven by holistic models and who understand and appreciate the entire story of a person’s life. This module has inspired me to open up conversations with colleagues and peers about how we can all work together to practice in this way, and finding people who will support this notion to create whole of system change.

  9. Avatar

    Dylan

    I really enjoyed hearing Amanda’s story about June and felt a lot of connection with it as I work in a very similar setting in Adelaide. It was inspiring to see the progress that June made, and how Amanda assisted with this, not by suggesting or imposing Amanda’s ideas on June but by working alongside June. This made me reflect on my own practice, and how there are many inferences in policies and procedures to client centred approach, however this, unfortunately, is often not the case in actuality. I know myself, that I have been guilty of presuming I know the best course of action needed for a particular consumer from time to time either through eagerness or time constraints and have then had to remind myself not to undertake this top down approach and instead work together with the consumer. This chapter was really good in its depiction of the client/consumer being the expert in their own life and a good refresher on the importance of this for myself.

  10. Avatar

    TorCG

    Writing from Naarm

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    The collaborations that I have been involved with generally involve working with students to develop ways to either inform their parents or their teachers of important information about their mental health/wellbeing. We almost develop a script of what to say and what the student is comfortable with sharing. These collaborations are possible as sometimes the students don’t feel they have the language or capacity to explain their feelings to others, and require some support in developing that capacity.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    I think the power imbalance between myself and student can impact how collaborative these practices are. If I am not careful, these collaborations can become more advisory on my end, rather than building the capacity of the student to collaborate with me.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I think building student groups that collaborate with school staff and broader education policy in general are an important next step. Education is still very top-down in its approach and I believe that student voices need to be centred when developing curriculum and wellbeing policy.

  11. Avatar

    Crystal Williams

    I really enjoy reading the importance of how the person is the expert of their own life, how important it is too work with them to describe their story. In my work as an assessor, I really like to involve the client’s perspective in what I report. I feel that in the medical profession too often the person is talked about instead of asking them how best to help them.
    I am also very fond of the concept of pointing out to the person what they are doing that is good already. Collaborating on ideas of how to make come into reality. (Vernon, BC, Canada)

  12. Avatar

    Karen Becker

    Brisbane Australia
    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    Collaborating with a young person who is experiencing domestic violence and discussing strategies to modify the effect in her life. Discussing which strategies would make her feel more stressed and which have worked in the past, rather than telling her what to do.
    This is possible because of the rapport that had been build up over several weeks and a conscious effort to listen to her story and ask curious questions.
    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    It is hard when we are in a system that has set ways of interacting with people. I liked Sue Moon’s article and the way she creatively developed a way of ensuring the medical records reflected the stories of patients that they were happy with, while still keeping the legal and policy requirements.
    It can be hard when there is distrust. I have found it hard when young people I work with don’t want to share their real story but just share what they think I want to hear.
    I think being de-centred but influential gets easier with practice. It requires tuning into clues about alternative stories and then knowing how to ask scaffolding questions. I find some sessions go better than others in terms of asking thoughtful questions.
    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I think just listening and asking curious questions.

  13. Avatar

    Michelle Royce

    Michelle Royce
    Coffs Harbour Australia
    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    Within the context of my work with older people and people living with dementia, I have entered many different kinds of collaborations, but the ones that stay with me are the small groups where I facilitate story sharing, that is, life stories. I believe this kind of collaboration fits within the narrative as therapy concept, since people are revisiting their life stories as the experts of their own lives and it’s very clear that some have ‘thin stories’ while others have a richer narrative around their lives. These collaborations involve creating a safe space where all feel comfortable to speak or listen, and the element of trust that comes with feeling valued for your own individual experience, whatever that may be. This can take time but ultimately is the key for sharing meaningful sessions where each person ( including me!) experiences some kind of positive outcome or healing moment appropriate to their individual needs through the collaborative process.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    It can be hard to create an atmosphere of non judgement and trust with older people, especially where certain demographics are concerned. Talking individually and assessing the compatibility of the individuals with each other can be helpful , as can discussing what the goals for the group are before beginning a session or collaboration, asking questions to ascertain what their goals or needs may be to achieve the outcome for the group. The facilitator also needs to be aware of dynamics and encouraging each person to be comfortable as their own ‘expert’.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    I’ve particularly found the concept of being the” expert of their own story” valuable and will now consciously introduce this into collaborative sessions with examples. Where before it was more of an intuitive thing, encouraging respect, empathy and non judgement, I believe this concept, introduced and explained will further support and give confidence to group participants to collaborate from their own valued and heard viewpoints.

  14. Avatar

    David Clayton

    Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

    I had entered in collaboration during meetings, projects and assignments before. I believe what had made these collaborations possible was the willingness to accept everyone for what they bring i.e., different perspectives, skills, knowledge and life experiences were brought into the conversation. I also think that groups work well, when organically they involve differences. Not when they are pre-chosen to include a rata system.

    I think what could be hard when entering into these practices could be when there is a great dynamic happening, it might become difficult for the leader or facilitator to manage a contrast of personalities or personality conflicts. It might also become harder to measure when accurately trying to adhere to a whole group i.e., we need to make x and y arrangements for someone. Sometimes people default to adherence of the majority over individualising the meeting to meet every singe person’s needs and requirements. I would definitely need to be aware that this could also cause discrimination and probably do what I need to do to meet other’s requirements/support needs.

    I think that it would definitely work in my practice. I am a social worker and usually there are conferences, meetings and other types of group based arrangements involve being able to understand each role in the room, so that goals are met. As well as understanding the sensitivities that are required, so that these events are inclusive.

  15. Avatar

    Steven Colbran

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?
    Every day is a new and exciting collaboration that brings value to clients and it has been made possible by being open and transparent with services and clients, as well as a team full of passionate colleagues.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?
    When one is not accepted or known to the people you want to collaborate with, or when it is a matter of putting the client first and protecting them, collaboration can be an upheaval for the individual.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?
    It really is all about relationships and stories. Being open and just listening, non-judgemental listening, empathy and support.

    Steven Colbran
    Mackay QLD
    Australia

  16. Avatar

    Kylie Webster

    In what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible? Any therapy session that we enter into is a collaboration with the client and is dependent on the client sharing their knowledge of themselves in a meaningful way in order to facilitate self-healing. The client is the expert in their own lives and it is through our collaboration that healing is possible.
    What might make it hard to enter into these practices? It would be very difficult without the valuable input and sharing of their stories of our clients to enter into a truly collaborative approach to therapy sessions.
    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work? This approach can be expanded to include the people that we work with and provide a meaningful approach to truly assisting the clients.

Leave a Reply