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 137 Comments

  1. Anita

    Anita from Singapore. The story of David and Sam was so moving and such an important story to illustrate the importance of changing the traditional relationship between therapist and the person who comes to therapy. The friendship between David and Michael is also testament to what great friendships and intellectual curiosity can achieve. It’s important to hear about the history and origin of things to put it into perspective and I really enjoyed learning about the history of Narrative therapy thank you

    1. Robyn Clark

      Hi, I’m Robyn from Melbourne.
      The concept of working with others in “co-research” is one that really appeals to me. One of the things I try to think of whether in supervision sessions or when someone has come to talk about problems, their distress or suffering, is how to make what we are talking about a joint project of work. The idea of co-research provides an everyday but powerful frame for this in a way I had not previously thought of.

  2. Abby

    Abby Regional SA Australia

    I really enjoyed reading about Michael and Sam and their sharing of knowledge as well as their ability to consult with each other and seek other opinions. I feel its often difficult to do this as we are seen as the professional and should have the answers when often being able to seek another opinion is what we need.

    I also enjoyed the extract from Aunty Barb, I have always found the conversations about grief difficult however that has allowed for reflection and knowing that speaking about a person is ok.

  3. Mercy Shumbamhini

    I am Mercy Shumbamhini from Harare, Zimbabwe. The story of Michael White and Sam touched me deeply and moved me into tears. What a beautiful and inspiring story. The image which comes to my mind is of two figures in which both are giving and taking, each person is a giver and a receiver. This is the beauty of narrative therapy. The friendship of adventure and collaboration between White and Epstein in developing narrative ideas, really stood out to me. Their working together for the good of humanity and the common good has made a huge impact in our world today. Thank you

  4. Isyenia

    Reading through Michael White and David Epston’s friendship and collab on narrative therapy made me feel inspired on how they created and united from their perspective a theory that contemplates persons problem´s as much more than problems. They approach them from structural problems of the social context, going through the imaginary of each culture until reaching the personal experience of the person. A truly inspiring job. These are the ideas that intrigued me the most.
    These things stood out to me because I´ve seen in practice how much a person can drown in a problem as long as they don´t see it in perspective and most of all, with help of other vision (conversations).

  5. Sharyn - Perth

    The excerpt of Michael and Sam’s interaction really resonated with me. My first foray into mental health social work was being rotated to a locked ward and then onto a mental health rehabilitation ward. While I adhere to anti-oppressive and respectful practice, I was wondering if I had the skills to work in this field of SW. I soon found that as with any other practice context, it was about developing real and authentic relationships, being understanding, being curious and open to learning from others, and not taking myself too seriously. I shared a lot of laughs with the “patients” I supported – many at my expense – specifically about my driving!

  6. John

    In the article by White and Epstein words such as collaboration, influence, spirit of adventure, camaraderie, opportunities and challenge, really stood out to me.

    And following on, the issue of sharing what has been learned, experienced through the written word.

    These issues stood out to me because I think it is our joint responsibility to humanity to share, encourage and enhance. Reading through the articles I had a sense of ‘oneness’ within the spirit of adventure.

    I see learning and experiencing as part of our evolution, and my aim in the future is to enhance the qualities of collaboration with clients and colleagues, look for and take on the challenges and opportunities that arise and build on that spirit of adventure.

  7. Jennifer.WriteNow@gmail.com

    Jennifer – Arizona, USA

    Being that Narrative Therapy allows that an individual’s history holds wonderful foundations for enriching alternative storylines, I really liked getting to mine a bit of the history of the folks who led the charge in founding this approach. My favorite and most appealing bit of history surfaced in co-founder Epston’s ‘Anthropology’ article. His elaboration on ethnographic imagination spelled out a feeling I hadn’t yet been able to articulate. It gave form and substance to the sort of humility(?) that has attracted me to narrative therapy. The idea that I, as a story coach, do not hold the answers is intriguing, freeing and generous in potential. I have no superpower, just a willingness and honed tools to hold space for, to coax answers from within the storyteller and her very personal context. I feel like I need a poster on my office wall (next to Denborough’s Storytelling Rights): “…Seek their versions of how they go about the living of their lives.”

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