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 58 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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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