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


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 164 Comments

  1. Rhianne

    Rhianne – Brisbane, Australia
    I found the influence of anthropology interesting. The idea of co-research helps to create a more balanced playing field between the therapist and the person seeking help. Taking a stance of ‘informed not knowing’ makes sense to me but also challenges my own belief about the need for me, as a therapist, to know what I’m doing! For me, that would require a bit of letting go of that social construct. Aunty Barb’s explanation of listening to people’s stories and helping them to get more in touch with their own healing ways is helpful for that letting go. People are their own experts and it’s about supporting them to find ways of healing that suit them.

  2. Jasmine

    I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The story of Michael’s interaction with Sam was particularly interesting to me, it was such a seemingly simple interaction but serves of an example of the powerful meaning of the therapist de-centering in the therapy session. This main importance I see to this “technique” if technique is what would be appropriate to call it, is allowing for rapport building in a natural; and effortless way. Trauma can be healed through forming new healthy relationships, and in this therapeutic relationship Michael has started to create, the client Sam may experience empowerment that he was not used to feeling within the ward. I assume other concepts Sam may experience through a relationship build in de-centering may be responsibility, empathy, sharing, care, trust, etc.
    The values I have noted from this chapter that I would take in, and integrate into my own practice would be: the value of humble relationships, like the relationship between Michael and David, value in spirit, including the spirit of adventure, the preservation of spirit and allowing the spirit to evolve, the values of optimism, energy, and passion, and lastly but not finally the value of flipping power, through multicultural practice, considerations of feminisms, poverty and race.


    Stuart – Brisbane Australia:
    The history was powerful and energizing – especially as it imbued a sense of the generosity of spirit and decentred power inherent in the development of the narrative body of knowledge as well as a wish for it to continue to evolve and adapt to meet our personal needs in a changing world and environment.

  4. nguyenju

    This is Juanna, writing from Canada. The story between Michael, the therapist, and Sam, the patient, intrigued me because of the questions Michael asks Sam. For instance, Michael asks Sam, “What do you think I should do?” It illustrates the practice of not seeing others as much different from ourselves and acknowledges that Sam’s skills or knowledge are important and respected. I think these things stood out to me because I believe that a client is an expert in their own life rather than me being an all-knowing therapist. And in the same regard, clients have strengths and values to which that should be noticed, acknowledged, and attended. Further, inviting and acknowledging the suggestions, ideas, and contributions of “patients” while profoundly irregular at that time would now be considered quite collaborative. I would like to take with me into my future practice this collaborative perspective and focus on skills and knowledge combined with a strengths-focused approach.

  5. Amanda Clifford

    Listening is so much more than hearing. Listening involves the whole self – body, mind & soul so your concern shines through. There is so much to learn from people. Listening for people’s abilities, knowledge & skills. Aunty Barbara Wingate words really touched me .. “We need our stories told & acknowledged. Working on our grief in these ways is working towards justice.”

  6. Julio Grijalva

    Julio, from El Salvador.

    Barbara Wingard’s passionate description of how aboriginal people have related and responded to Grief was particularly intriguing for me.

    I think the reason is because it resonates with what my people go through on a daily basis, and have been going through historically, really. We’ve been hit by wars, social injustice, sexism, corruption, poverty, crime, etc.

    But even so, people find their own particular ways to try and rise above whatever these problems try to impose on them; survival is one of our fiercest allies, and it is transmitted through generations.

    Narrative practice provides the tools necessary to explore more of these allies and ways of dealing with the problems of life, that are so usually buried by dominant problematic storylines. It is my hope to one day put these tools into practice, so I can contribute, small as it may be, to the healing and betterment of my people.

  7. Pamant

    I appreciate the term “Informed Knowing” and the importance of researching together with clients as a co-creating process.

  8. EdaUtku

    Eda from Sydney, Australia

    How can you not love a good old fashioned mate-ship story? I love Cheryl’s account of how Michael and David met. Cheryl and Ann, Michael and David’s spouses are a part of the work and it made me long for such camaraderie in my life. Auntie Barbara’s story saddened me and made me realise how much co-research is needed to realise solidarity in my adopted home country.

  9. Kelvin

    The idea that intrigued me the most was that of viewing the therapeutic encounter as “co-research.” It seems to me that this perspective heightens, rather thickens, the collaborative nature of Narrative Therapy. This perspective was both a confirmation and an invitation. It was a confirmation of the validity of aspects of my past and present work. It was also an invitation (perhaps even a challenge) to be purposeful and purposive about my practice of collaborative engagement.

  10. Chrissy Gillmore

    Aotearoa, New Zealand

    The idea of grief and how this is cultural. I appreciate the aboriginal knowledge of spiritus staying with us, and grief being cultural (westernisation silences it). I appreciate how colonisation has also affected the grieving process, and how healing there is a reclaiming of the sound of grieving.

    I like the ‘spirit of adventure’ that fuelled Michael White and David Epstom’s approach to how they enriched the narrative therapy theory. I think this is brilliant, and how this was constant. There was no decision that the theory was the way it should be now. It was ongoing and spiralled.

    Solidarity and minimising power differentials is just beautiful. That everyone has something rich to offer, and if we were not in the same situation, how we would respond the same. It closes the gap between us and them, or at least helps to.

  11. alexandra.m.cameron@gmail.com

    I was really struck by the relationship between Michael White and David Epston. It’s a relationship that started off haphazardly at a conference, but blossomed into a lifelong collaboration! I think a lot of times, researchers may be hesitant to openly collaborate and share their work (especially before it is published) but Michael and David basically became a team working and collaborating with each other from across the sea. This stands out to me as impactful since their initial meeting created this new form of therapy, and they worked together (even with the help of their partners) to really make something meaningful. In its own way, the history of the beginning and growth of narrative therapy is an example of narrative practice itself. That’s how I see it, at least. I’ll take away the rich (albeit short) history of narrative practice, and it will influence me to continue to support others with collaboration, with being that outsider-witness when necessary. The history, stories, and examples I just read all support this, this community work!

  12. nalan@xtra.co.nz

    I was captivated by the article where did all begin? by Cheryl White. Michael and David’s friendship, openness to each other, and joy of sharing were inspirational, and furthermore I couldn’t believe how they dealt with ownership of the work. It is really inspiring.
    I was saddened by Aunty Barb’s story of when she was talking to a young man who believed that grief affected his mental health. Because of the grief how many died very young in his community. It was heartbreaking to read how the past and present injustice caused so much suffering. What is stood out for me is that what Aunty Barb said, “Dealing with our grief, with all of the losses we have experienced, is not about moving on and forgetting. It’s about remembering our people and bringing them with us wherever we go.” It stood out for me because it is brave and I can feel their strength.
    My takeaway is, every person’s story is important and should be valued. AndI’m going to reflect it on all my relationships.

  13. jguest

    I think that reading about how Michael and David were transparent with one another and shared so much and challenged each other in how their therapy was evolving and changing helped to create the culture that we see evident in Michael’s relationship with Sam at the end of this chapter. Michael saw Sam not only as someone to be helped but someone to be helped by. As co-researchers they could uncover more skills and knowledges that would help others moving forward.

  14. Jacob

    I was really moved by Aunty Barbara Wingard when she was dicussing the ways that grief is diffrently cross culturally and that their are many ways to grieve. It was really intriguing to hear her speak on the ways that white supremacy and Eurocentric culture has caused so much trauma and damage to aboriginal people still today, and that part of the ways they work towards healing is by coming together in groups and grieving in ways that are meaningful to them. I am definitely going to take her perspective of honoring the past and allowing clients to tell stories in ways that are meaningful to their own recovery.

Leave a Reply