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

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 120 Comments

  1. Veronica Figarella

    I was really inspired by the article about how ¨Just Therapy¨ works. I really liked the approach on the process of analysing family problems from a wider perspective, and taking the actions necessary to incorporate measuring so the results of therapy can also influence policy making. I also find very loving and encouraging to consider people´s cultural and spiritual needs into therapy, to make it more effective and therefore produce real liberation to those that seek help from therapists. I am encouraged to find more about how this organization works today.

  2. Anita

    Anita from Simgapore. I started really understanding and using collaboration in my work after my training as a Solution Focused Brief Therapist. It was liberating to no longer be the ‘expert’ who had to have all the answers. It was empowering to believe in my client’s abilities to have all the skills and resources necessary for a preferred future. Collaboration is not easy to achieve and things that can get in the way are our own prejudices or notions about people, and our difficulty in moving away from the traditional diagnostic model, amongst others. However when it is possible it completely changes the tone of the conversation and outcomes of therapy and is certainly something that I strive and hope to achieve. I was impressed by Tileah’s presentation and her story of collaboration in her life.

  3. ellen.domm@gmail.com

    Ellen North Vancouver, BC Canada

    This unit has certainly stimulated reflection on my years of practice as a specialist in Eating Disorders. I came to the work from my own experience as an adolescent, and thus considered myself an expert both personally and professionally. As much as I believe that therapy is a collaborative process and told my clients so, I think now I may have missed opportunities to be truly collaborative by appropriating my clients’ stories as mirroring my own. One must be ever mindful with regard to self-disclosure!

  4. Mercy Shumbamhini

    I am Mercy Shumbamhini from Harare, Zimbabwe. I have enjoyed the articles on collaboration and accountability in this chapter. I was touched by June’s experience with outsider witness retellings. I have used collaboration and accountability in my work with children and their families and with widows. What I found helpful in this work is the use of the bottom up and non-blaming approaches. I can say that this is not all that easy, it requires an on-going personal reflection and receiving feedback practices from the people who consult with me. I would like to continue learning with the people whom I meet to co-create narrative practices and ideas that respect their knowledges, skills and ways of life that they prefer.

  5. hobson.paul@gmail.com

    This is Paul from Sudbury, Ontario Canada.

    I think all of us in 1 form or another have been part of a collaboration at least once in our life whether it be as part of a group in school or part of our organization in our professional lives. All collaborations are possible, that however does not mean they are always good. For a successful collaboration there has to be an equal level of power amongst all members; that is not to say there cannot be a leader, but the level of power when it comes to direction, procedures and goals has to be somewhat level across all members. In Narrative Therapy this level of balance is seen in the “bottom up” approach discussed in this chapter as well as other. With the client being the expert in their story, the level of power between themselves and the professional is narrowed; furthermore, the direction of the relationship and the goals are agreed upon between the members in many cases.

    Challenges to this process are when a member, or groups of members are given or take on more powerful leadership roles and work towards there own agendas and not the agreed upon agendas of the group itself. This can happen simply because of strong personalities and egos, or because other members of the group lack the self confidence and courage to be a stronger part of the relationship.

    I personally enjoy collaboration with my past and present clients regardless of the environment and the situation. Although a challenge at times to either hold myself back from taking the lead or empowering my client to take a lead, I have found that obtaining goals that we both feel are possible and positive is much easier. And to be honest, I don’t honestly think any of us want to make a difficult job of working with others any harder than it has to be.

  6. sineadtwomey2004@gmail.com

    I am Sinead from Cork, Ireland.
    I really found a lot of food for thought in this chapter. The opening statement that the role of the therapist is to provide a context through a scaffolding of questioning that makes it possible for people to become more aware of their own skills and knowledges made sense to me. However it can sometimes be easy to begin offering solutions when with clients, especially when clients come expecting answers. Amanda Worrals point about the listener being susceptible to taking a position on the problem when the person is defeated by it mirrors the same sentiment of therapist as expert. This is something which I try always to be aware of and to reflect on. I hope to become more skilled at the questioning to promote a de-centred, influential stance. Amanda Worral’s examples of questions are very useful and I will be using and adapting these in my own work.
    I also enjoyed Sue Mann’s description of colloborative practice. Her reflection of meeting with the man whose name she did not know resonated with me as I remember and reflect on some of my work in my early years as a social worker. Of particular interest was her acknowledgment of the dominant story of the organisation and its influence on us as practitioners. It caused me to reflect on my years in a statutory child protection setting and the influence of the organisational knowledge on my interventions with children and their families. I believe such reflection, awareness and accountability is essential for continually developing practice.
    I will remember the “Strong story “ concept delivered by Tileah Drahm -Butler and the use of Narrative Therapy to tell stories in de- colonised ways as I sit with my clients also.
    I am inspired to read more about the Just Therapy model of practice and to develop my skills in questioning so that I can be collaborative and accountable in my work.

  7. bveyne@gmail.com

    Bertrand, from Forcalquier, France.
    I retain this question ‘What might make it hard to enter into these practices?’ But, how do you make people meet and talk about themselves ? I don’t mean people in my consulting room. In my town (south of France, countryside), people don’t talk when in group. I love the things I’ve read in this course, about community work. In France, like in some former colonial countries, there is a big issue unachieved with the decolonization of our ancient colonial territories. Things have not been told, and we’re confronted with racial issues much too often. For me, the only solution is to meet and talk, but Power is a terrible beast that grows by separating people… This one aspect of the narrative Approach that appeals to me: it gives examples of means that are efficient with groups and community. I eager to try these approaches where I live !

  8. Abderrafie

    I found this question “so, how can I help you?” intriguing and a little confusing for some clients.
    Some of them, who assume you are the expert, just look at you strangely, and might say: but you should know how to help me, isn’t that your job?
    Some others, in deep despair, just say: you couldn’t help me, anyway, no one could.
    Some others seem interested but confused. “I don’t know, I never thought about that before”.
    Trusting the therapist and feeling safe with him is a necessary condition for the client to answer this question clearly.

  9. Claire

    Claire, England

    As a Genetic Counsellor, our first task is always to elicit the patient’s agenda, however, this section has made me realise how superficial my approach can be and has open my eyes to explore things further with patients. I think in a medical setting, the doctor – patient hierarchy can be a barrier to creating a safe and equal space. The clinic rooms are VERY clinical. One way of readdressing this power dynamic is simply by rearranging furniture in the room to we sit in a circle which allows a more collaborative environment.

    A recipricol engagement model with shared decision making is also key to our person centred counselling approach but due to time constraints we tend to slip into an ‘information giver’ role. I think I can utilise some of the techniques mentioned here to spend just a little more time hearing the patients stories which will inevitably allow a more collaborative approach later on.

    I am trying to develop an online intervention to support families affected with an inherited condition and I think the idea of recording the output of the intervention and them sharing with peers for feedback is a great idea and something that could work online.

  10. Jennifer.WriteNow@gmail.com

    Jennifer – Arizona – USA

    I’m enamored by the ideals behind collaboration and accountability within this chapter lesson. Warrall’s outsider witness example with June and Mann’s assertion, in particular, validates my strong belief in the power of the recorded word: “The act of putting something into writing somehow engages people in noticing in more detail exceptions to the dominant stories of their lives.” For me, entering into these practices are muddied by opportunity. Or lack thereof. As a writer of an unusual ilk (I wish to encourage other writers as much as write my own narrative), I know the storytellers who most need an ‘acknowledging witness’ (Denborough) are in abundance. How to find and invite them into an engaged, trusting conversation that feels like a safe collaborative environment is my struggle.

    Further, the Just Therapy Team set my imagination ablaze with a spark I’m calling ‘preventative health coverage policy research.’ The United States is plagued by an unwieldy and unfriendly healthcare system. I would love to be part of a collaborative effort to research and document the positive health benefits of storytelling and writing to heal. Documenting on a larger scale the kind of improved health that results when Narrative Therapy tools are applied to writing exercises and guided conversations might provide affordable access and wider spread acceptance.

  11. John

    The word collaboration is synonymous with partnership, and like most, if not all people, have been in and continue to be in a multitude of partnerships. Specific examples are in my work as a counsellor and street pastor.

    What makes these collaborations or partnerships possible is the individuals desire to think, talk and explore various situations relating to their lives, with the knowledge that they will be taken seriously, listened to and not judged. In short, their willingness to engage.

    Every relationship, partnership, collaboration needs time and dedication. In the counselling scenario this is not such a problem as we work on an open ended basis and have the added value of working in collaboration with my supervisor. However, with encounters with rough sleepers, with a variety of poverty related problems, time makes this process difficult sometimes.

    Whilst I can see possible benefits to engaging some of the facets of Narrative Therapy, at this stage I need to consult with my supervisor and talk through the pros and cons for introducing to clients. Having said that, I have found that much of the philosophy is very closely linked to other types of therapy.

  12. Kathryn

    I was struck by June’s experience with outsider witness retellings. Sometimes when I ask clients who notices the changes they are making, they cannot name anyone, or they discredit the people who may notice. Making a ritual out of noticing seems like a powerful way to help clients recognize their strengths and self worth. It also seems risky. What if a witness contradicts the story or slips into cheerleading? I like Sue’s approach of recording (and re-recording) the witness retellings to ensure they reinforce helpful images and meanings.

  13. Olive

    I’ve heard in many of the papers or talk on the course mention of consulting colleagues. Really curious about what supervision practice and structures look like in narrative therapy services. Wondering what form this can take, and where it fits with accountability? How do the sections at the Just Therapy centre hold each other to account? Interesting journey towards social action and community development, wondering what this means for funding possibilities and what impacts their social policy research has had? This chapter has spurred me on to further look at their work and stories. It might be useful in collaborating with people seen at my service to think about taking some more of these explicit practices into my our together, where social issues such as poverty, colonialisation, neoliberal individualism, religious institutions’ abuse and institutional racism (of the Traveller and Roma communities, along with migrant communities and people of colour) can be seen to play a role in many people’s lives when sent to or attending services. Connects me to the previous chapter in thinking about being decentred and influential when this balance may be tricky tightrope of paying attention to privilege and using power of privilege in a meaningful way – may need the story of the credibility of the profession I’m in to initiate others to hear the need to support changes or to hear different stories…..and then take a backseat…..

  14. Olive

    I’ve heard in many of the papers or talk on the course mention of consulting colleagues. Really curious about what supervision practice and structures look like in narrative therapy services. Wondering what form this can take, and where it fits with accountability? How do the sections at the Just Therapy centre hold each other to account? Interesting journey towards social action and community development, wondering what this means for funding possibilities and what impacts their social policy research has had? This chapter has spurred me on to further look at their work and stories. It might be useful in collaborating with people who I see to think about taking some more of these explicit practices into my work, where social issues such as poverty, colonialisation, religious institutions’ abuse and institutional racism (of the Traveller and Roma communities, along with migrant communities and people of colour) can be seen to play a role in many people’s lives when sent to or attending services. Connects me to the previous chapter in thinking about being decentred and influential when this balance may be tricky tightrope – may need the story of the credibility of the profession I’m in to initiate others to hear the need to support changes…..and then take a backseat…..

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