Forums 2020-2021 India Narrative Therapy and Community Work Training Program Forum Reflection paper 10: Thinking behind practice

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    To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to this topic…I assumed it would be too heavy. But I was wrong. I was completely taken in. I found myself highlighting things, re-reading lines, writing down some key sentences, and totally engrossed!

    I think for me the resonance is strongly present with regard to the philosophy behind the approach in terms of non pathologizing (I have never really been comfortable with diagnosis), empowering, compassionate, collaborative care which helps clients bring to the foreground their “strong” stories. But where I see a strong learning and excitement is at the beautiful use of language and different words to bring about these shifts. It also helps me conceptualize and understand how I need to be influential in the therapeutic relationship. It has helped me with framing of questions. For example, “how have you stood up to this?” or “how have you made your way through life’s difficulties?” I get instant non verbal and verbal feedback from my clients when I ask questions along these lines. There is brief surprise coz they have never been asked a question like this or thought about it in these terms. And then slowly there is further exploration into their “strong” stories. In her book chapter, Tileah Drahm-Butler stated that where there are stories of hardship, there are stories of resistance to it. While listening to my clients, I actively remind myself to hear this and seek this out. I find myself thinking of how we can “reduce the power of the problem story”. These are some of the words that I shall always keep with me…and pass on.

    The reading about postmodernism, individualism and collectivism took me back a social psychology class during my masters program in the US. The professor had us fill out a questionnaire to assess whether were more individualistic or collectivistic. In a class of about 25 I think, I was the only one who scored on the collectivistic side. I do not remember exactly why, but the professor was surprised, and I remember feeling embarrassed. It was the strangest thing. Over the years I have slowly understood why I was the odd one in that class. And some of the readings reinforced that understanding. Even in our work today, there is a dominance of “White” or “Western” values and some of these are very subtle as we have internalized these through our education as well as society/politics.
    Chris Wever said that an ethic that has always informed her practice has been transparency. This got me thinking about mine. In all the various ideas that influence my practice, behind it is deep respect for people who consult with me and a sense of responsibility to my profession. What has significantly changed for me is bringing in power dynamics and the political into therapy. I have always taken a systemic perspective in therapy, but it has now broadened or extended into the larger social and political realm. I now talk to clients more about their beliefs and the origins of it, be it from family or society and culture; we then explore how it is impacting them.

    Having said all this, I continue to believe that I still have a lot more to learn and understand. Learning and building your expertise is a lifetime endeavor. There are times when I am still clumsy with externalizing and re-authoring conversations, and there are also times when I know there has been a wonderful shift in the session.

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