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 72 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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)

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

Leave a Reply