Histories

In this chapter we provide materials that briefly outline some of the important histories that continue to inform and shape narrative practices today. You will be introduced to co-founders Michael White and David Epston as well as other influential people who contributed to the development of narrative practices. We will also name some of the key practices Michael White developed over his lifetime and some of the main authors he drew upon.

 

 


 

In this article Cheryl White explores a history between co-founders of narrative practice Michael White and David Epston. This history features a spirit of adventure, a particular quality of partnership and a way of collaborating that influenced the development of narrative practice

Where did it all begin? | Cheryl White

Michael-and-David

Picture: Michael White & David Epston

 


Michael White was one of the co-founders and co-directors of Dulwich Centre and worked here from the day it opened in 1983 until his death in 2008. This extract aims to assist you in gaining a sense of the processes Michael White engaged in originating narrative practices and we invite you to consider how some of his legacies might be significant to you and your future practice.

Legacies of Michael White | David Denborough


 

David Epston, co-founder of narrative therapy, is widely respected for his innovative and creative work.He has introduced to the field of family therapy a range of alternative approaches including the use of leagues, archives and co-research.David lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where this conversation took place. Here in this small extract we learn about the term co-research, which he coined in the late 1970’s.

Anthropology, archives, co-research and narrative therapy | an interview with David Epston

 

For David Epston’s website you can visit: Narrative Approaches


 

In this extract we read about co-founder Michael White’s thoughts on the range of influences he drew on in the development of narrative practices

‘Family Therapy: Exploring the fields past, present and possible futures’ | An interview with Michael White


As mentioned in the readings above, Aboriginal Australian practitioners have significantly influenced the development of narrative practices. Aunty Barabara Wingard describes narrative practice as “Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger”. She also speaks about ways of listening “to people’s stories to put them more in touch with their own healing ways”. You can read more about her work here:

Aunty Barbara Wingard | Telling our Stories in ways that make us Stronger

barbara wingard


“And what of solidarity? I am thinking of a solidarity that is constructed by therapists who refuse to draw a sharp distinction between their lives and the lives of others, who refuse to marginalize those persons who seek help, by therapists who are constantly confronting the fact that if faced with the circumstances such that provide the context of troubles of others, they just might not be doing nearly as well themselves”

– Michael White

One of the important ideas that informed narrative practices from very early on was this sense of ‘solidarity’. Here  is a small excerpt from the epilogue of the book ‘Continuing the Conversations’ that illustrates how this influenced Michael White’s practice.

Continuing the Conversations | Cheryl White


 

 

For reflection… 

Which particular ideas or stories intrigued you?

 

Why do you think these things stood out to you?

 

What from these histories would you like to take with you into your future practice in some way?

 


 

Please now share your thoughts & reflections below and then continue to the next chapter! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks! 

 


This Post Has 179 Comments

  1. Michele

    It seems to me that the history of Narrative Therapy is a history of creative innovation, humility, curiosity, collaboration, and a commitment to life long learning. The ideas of ‘respectful curiosity’ and ‘informed not-knowing’ resonate with me, as does the historical role of feminism in thickening the storyline of Narrative Therapy itself. I live in Canada where the 2015 “Truth and Reconciliation Report” (exploring the legacy of Indian residential schools was examined in-depth) has brought into the light the long overdue conversation about colonialism in Canada. I think that Narrative Therapy is an ideal tool for supporting this conversation for individuals and groups, and that the concepts of the dominate story and subordinate story are helpful ways of framing the conversation around decolonization. As I write this, I am recalling Canadian Cree artist Kent Monkman’s 2020 exhibit “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience” and finding that my appreciation for his work is enriched in light of this introductory course.

  2. alexclaire.es@gmail.com

    Alex – UK
    I was intrigued by the spirit of “Adventure” referred to in the section on the collaborative work of Michael White and David Epston by Cheryl White. I also enjoyed the principle of “Co-research” – and “informed not knowing”
    “Ethnographic imagination” – not so much “stepping into their shoes” because I can’t, but actively construing their construing. Attempting to engage with how they engage with their world.
    I also appreciated the reminder to see “identity as something that is achieved in relationship with others rather than something that derives from human nature”.

    And I loved the Sam story. I enjoy and value that letting go of expected power dynamics, in preference for being human, and honouring the other person’s capabilities, insights, experience and ideas.

    To the question of “Why do you think these things stood out to you?”
    The idea of our identity being achieved in relationship with others resonates stood out because of my work in organisations. It reminded me how often organisations can attempt to locate problems as within their employees, a common HR perspective, rather than seeing them as issues within the organisational context, a more common OD perspective.

    Also, ideas of solidarity, co-research, and ethnographic imagination remind me of the practice of “credulous listening”, and the inside out approach of Personal Construct Psychology which is more familiar to me..

    And as to “What from these histories would you like to take with you into your future practice in some way?”
    For my one-to-one work, I want to keep hold of the co-researching idea, and for group work the reminder of solidarity, and of identity being formed in relationships. I’ll also challenge myself to retain some of the “irreverence” in my one-to-one practice, keeping stereotypical expectations of the role at arms length!

  3. Polly Rodgers

    Like lots of others I was inspired by the description of Michael and David’s relationship, and particularly in their ability to see the value in the differences in their approaches, and in their vow never to become rivals. It’s not surprising that an approach with locates problems in a person’s social contexts rather than in their innate natures also understands that solutions and innovations are socially situated, and not the private property of individuals.
    David’s description of the ethnographic imagination also caught my attention. I loved the idea of informed not-knowing, and the skill of assisting people in knowing their own knowledge.

  4. Lindsey

    Two parts stood out as memorable to me in this chapter. Firstly my mind was inspired by the idea of originating, i.e. taking the information you learn further and stretching it. I liken this to going from letting information be given to you passively, to being an active participant in this process. I believe this would reap far greater rewards, in that each individual will ‘get’ something different and valuable to them from any information gathering, by letting knowledge sit and being curious about it, rather than taking it on blindly at face value. The other aspect was the political stance which i can see would help to ‘externalize’ the problem for many who are going through distress at the hands of wider societal issues.

  5. Eleanor

    I think the most fascinating part about this chapter was the respect that was present in Micheal White and David Epston’s friendship. it was influential how both friends continuously spoke about bettering the topic and discussing books that both have read since the last time they had spoken – this is admirable as it provided so many contributions to narrative therapy. I think being exposed to a relationship like this is admirable and is rarely seen in the psychology field. The influences of Micheal Whites contributions is how he always use to read an array of papers and critically think about how all the ideas he was confronted could be ‘stretched’ and make it more applicable to other areas within the field. Having this inspiration has encouraged me to read papers more outside of the subject I have chosen to specialise in and to try and form new ideas and to critically analyse them to help inter-relate them all.

  6. sjwalker

    I think the different perspectives of Michael and David are what intrigued me most. The same values, the same goal but looking at it from different directions, yet somehow they were able to achieve their focus. I think this is a true representation of collaboration and showing respect and trust. There would have been moments when they critiqued each other and tore apart practices or really reaffirmed each others practices so they could evolve in to Narrative Practice. There is an honesty in their work – to genuinely want to offer the best care for the patient in a humane and dignified way – so that the patient is validated and can take control of themselves/their thoughts/their direction. I mean this is what we all want for ourselves is it not? To feel safe and in some form of control of our own minds/actions/direction.

  7. khedges01

    I feel that it was helpful to read the importance each person placed on creating a space of hearing and listening to a persons story of grief or loss, where they created a space for equality, transparency and learning. I loved how Aunt Barbara met under the tree and called her discussion “talking” rather than therapy because it alone dismantled the power that can be felt.

  8. flora.sugarman@gmail.com

    The idea of reversing power dynamics and being transparent in narrative practice both stood out to me a lot. I think this is because of the potential power I see in a person controlling and owning their own story and the importance of learning and growing as a community. I think way too much growth and change in this world is inhibited by meaningless social orders and norms that need to be broken down in order for true mutual benefit and advancement. The idea of breaking down some of these barriers, sharing, and learning together is something I find valuable and would like to bring into my own practices.

  9. Amanda Shribman

    I really loved the story of Michael and Sam and the ability of Michael to see Sam not as a competent equal other. I try to put this into my own practise and work on seeing everybody as connected in the world in terms of all of us having good times and bad times. No one is immune

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