Explorations in narrative documentation with people from refugee backgrounds by Chanelle Burns

This video explores the use of narrative documentation in work with people from refugee backgrounds, specifically in contexts of responding to trauma. Through the lens of narrative  documentation, a number of narrative principles and practices are explored, including eliciting responses to trauma, scaffolding, externalising, re-authoring, and outsider-witnessing.

Chanelle Burns is a Social Worker based in Melbourne, Australia. She has worked in a variety of roles with people seeking asylum and from refugee backgrounds. She is currently working as a counsellor advocate at the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (also known as Foundation House). Chanelle is particularly interested in how narrative therapy traverses language and culture.

If you would like to respond to this presentation or ask any questions, please contact Chanelle at chanelle.burns@gmail.com.

In particular, responses to Rayan are welcomed. Rayan’s willingness to share his story is informed by a commitment to his story and experiences helping others.  If you were moved by his story and particularly the poem ‘My Story To Be Told’ you might like to write an outsider witness response that you can send to Chanelle to pass on to Rayan. You might like respond by answering these questions:

  • Was there an expression that stood out to you?
  • Did this expression evoke any images?
  • What did this expression or image suggest to you about Rayan?
  • What is it about this expression or image that you connect with?
  • Where have you been taken on account of hearing this story?

To read more about the ideas Chanelle has shared in this video please see her article here.

Presentation references:

Behan, C. (n.d.) Rescued Speech Poems: Co-authoring Poetry in Narrative Therapy. Retrieved from www.narrativeapproaches.com/?p=1546


Wade, A. (1997). Small acts of living: Everyday resistance to violence and other forms of oppression. Contemporary Family Therapy, 19:1, 23-39.


White, M. (2004). Working with people who are suffering the consequences of multiple trauma: A narrative perspective. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 1, 44-75.


Yuen, A. (2009). Less pain, more gain: Explorations of responses versus effects when working with the consequences of trauma. Explorations: An E-Journal of Narrative Practice, 1, 6-16.


Some resources about the practice of narrative documentation:

Fox, H. (2003). Using therapeutic documents: a review. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy & Community Work, (4), 26-36.


Newman, D. (2008) ‘Rescuing the said from the saying of it’: Living documentation in narrative therapy. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, (3), 24-34.


Newman, D. (2013, January 24).  The written word and narrative practice [Video file]. Retrieved from http://narrativetherapyonline.com/moodle/mod/resource/view.php?id=584


Pentecost, M. (2008). A letter to Robyn: explorations of the written word in therapeutic practice. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, (1), 17-27.


White, M. & Epston, D. (1990). Counter Documents. In Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.


Other narrative therapy resources I have found useful in context of responding to trauma:

Blackburn, P. (2005). Speaking the Unspeakable: bearing witness to the stories of political violence, war and terror. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy & Community Work, (3 & 4), 97-105.


Blackburn, P. (2010). Creating space for preferred identities: narrative practice conversations about gender and culture in the context of trauma. Journal of Family Therapy, (32), 4-26.


Denborough, D. (2005). A framework for receiving and documenting testimonies of trauma. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy & Community Work, (3 & 4), 34-42.


Yuen, A. (2007). Discovering children’s responses to trauma: a response-based narrative practice. The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 4, 3-18.

Published February 26, 2016
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