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





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 95 Comments

  1. I was really inspired by the way social paranoia was externalised and the break down of questions leading on from externalising ‘the problem’ will really help me in my practise. I am always surprised by how differently I can imagine someone’s ‘problem’ to how they choose to externalise it and this chapter highlighted to me the importance of keeping the influence of my own histories in mind when working with a young person.

  2. Caroline from Pittsburgh, PA.
    I really like the Decolonising Identity Stories with Tileah Drahm-Butler. When talking to people or any background, it often becomes clear that the listener, not knowing the person’s history, somehow comes to believe that a unique history does not exist for this individual. The listener assumes that he or she shares history, values and experiences with the speaker. The listener superimposes their own history, values and experiences onto the speaker’s story, thus restricting that story. Narrative practices help to liberate the stories of others.

  3. I really like Michael White’s “decentred and influential” model. Seeing this in a visual form, as well as engaging in the progression of stories along these chapters, and particularly those in this chapter has me reflecting asking myself questions such as “where I am I centred? How can I be more decentered? What do I need to be more influential?”. I have had many reflections on this about my counselling style, and the times/places where I struggle to step back from having my own biases and assumptions take centrefront of understanding and processing stories with clients. This was a great chapter to demonstrate the value of collaborative practice, how far we can use this and the power it holds.

  4. I loved the example of June and SP. This was an example of narrative therapy at its empowering best. I think that is the strength of narrative work – it is empowering for clients when done well. I also loved the notion that the narrative therapist holds responsibility for identifying opportunities to be helpful and acknowledging the client’s agenda. This taps into critical thinking and being non judgemental. I am keen to explore this further in my own work.

  5. Caleb Mackey from Kentucky in the United States!
    I really love the idea of collaborating. It’s one of the reasons I love the idea of becoming a counselor. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a solid group of peers to help a counselor be as effective as he or she can be. I know I sometimes may struggle with actually reaching out for help, my own stubborn, selfish, and protective self can be, but it’s one of the key factors to being a productive, effective, and sane counselor!
    I also liked going through the process of June’s SP. The use of imagery really helped me understand what she was going through and how she was progressing! I also liked how they showed each level of narrative techniques used!

  6. Hello everyone
    I liked the story of June and SP very much because it gives motivations and empowerment to client to write their stories. Apart from it, I am social work student , when I will start my profession then I will try encourage them to collaborate with me and motivate them write their stories with their own hands.
    Thank you so much for this class.

  7. I am encouraged to acknowledge my families expertise in their lives.
    Also encouraged by June’s & her SP story what great ways to empower those whose lives we work with; Further the man with no name and the writing of hospital notes is so encouraging as I will bring this to my time with families and further encourage them to collaborate with me in writing their story in notes that will be read by others.
    Then there is Decolonizing Identity Stories and acknowledging that the practise of Decolonization still continues and we need to acknowledge and work with this.. Shame and acknowledging shame, where, when did it come from very personal and confronting in a very positive way.
    Thank you for this amazing teaching which I will continue to take to my work place and family life.

  8. Appreciated the insight on asking clients / patients how they would like their story and experience represented in medical records – empowering them and creating a sense of safety at a difficult time. Helpful insights – thank you!

  9. Hello Melissa from Florida. I loved June and SP I felt it was a perfect example of what Narrative Practice is and what we all need to be doing. She did a great job walking the client into her own actions at a speed she was comfortable with and allowed her to see what she could be. Thank you for sharing this class.

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