Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in |

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! 


  1. Seattle, USA. I really enjoyed the story about the fear of the pants falling down. Often times as a new therapist, my supervisors have warned us about self-disclosure. I liked what occurred in the transcript. By the therapist self-disclosing, it made him seem more human and it did break down that power differential many of our clients are afraid of. I think it helped the client to open up more.

    • Paris, France.
      I had exactly the same reaction. A sparkle of self-disclosure can sometimes break the professional / patient mould and allow the person to open up. Understanding that the “professional” is neither omniscient nor omnipotent may also help to overcome a sentiment of shame.
      Thanks for this chapter and thanks Gwendolyn (by the way, a name which means “sacred circle / ring” or “white moon” in my ancestors’ language).

  2. Tina – Coffs Harbour NSW
    I was particularly drawn to Aunty Barbara Wingard and how she does not label her meetings with others as counselling but sitting together to tell their stories. It allows people to feel free to discuss their feelings and be honest and open without feeling judged.
    I also love her quote: “It’s important for us as Aboriginal people to make the links between justice and grief. We need the
    injustices addressed so that we can grieve our losses. We need our stories told and acknowledged.
    Working on our grief in these ways is working towards justice”.

  3. I found the takeaway from the transcript of Michael’s conversation with Sam superficially comical, but ultimately profound. In my professional life, I have worked mostly with teenagers, and have watched at times as other educators respond to students–especially disruptive students–in a manner similar to how the other therapists in Sam’s setting were regarding patients experiencing psychosis, as “the other.” I have also witnessed this othering in my sustained work with a young man living with Down syndrome, by simply experiencing his life with him in public contexts. But in these settings, rather than go along with the othering, I have seen success in reversing power dynamics to the advantage of the relationship by placing power, trust, and responsibility into the hands of teens, or the young man that I look after. This does the crucial work of dissolving the wall between the therapist, educator, or caretaker and “the other,” until there is no longer an aspect of othering at play.

  4. I was particularly drawn to some words in Aunty Barb Wingard’s paper, Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger. The quote “But silent cries can go on for years and be heard by no-one. They can eat away at a person’s spirit.” (p2) neatly sums up how the Western culture of squash it down is instilled in us and we have come to expect it from all others. I think as a culture we have started to try and move away from this idea, however I believe it will be a long hard road.

  5. I am from Whitby, Canada and I am a Child and Family Therapist working in private practice. The ideas of co-research, and inviting the suggestions and ideas of clients resonated with me. I find clients appear often surprised when I ask them for their input on achieving treatment goals, when we re-evaluate how things are going in sessions, what is different/changed in their lives, and what has been helpful and not helpful in the sessions. The readings in this lesson have helped to give me confidence in this way of working, as the client’s surprise when I elicited this information had me second guessing this approach.

  6. Emilie from Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia
    Hello everyone,
    In this chapter I was drawn to Michael White’s definition of the therapist solidarity:
    “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”.
    I find this idea extremely helpful. Having this consideration for the persons who seek help and their situation takes away all possibility of establishing a judgement toward them. This way of approaching the clients’ stories also gives space to use ‘ethnographic imagination’ – to develop an understanding of people’s visions about how they go about the living of their lives.

  7. Hello again from British Columbia, Canada. Within this unit I really appreciated the aspect of the article by Barb Wingard in which healing from loss and the experience of grief was discussed. The writer mentioned that externalizing grief as a way to talk about loss can be very healing. Many of my clients are grieving current and past losses, however the conversations we have are usually very matter of fact. We discuss the stages of grief, their experience, how they are coping, etc, but perhaps the connection to the experience could be more pronounced if we were to personify grief. Grief impacts people on all levels and I imagine that externalizing it would allow for each level to be explored. Even though this article was in relation to Aboriginal culture, I see this as being useful for a wide array of people experiencing grief.

  8. The importance of collaboration within teams as well as between clients and practitioners. I am also interested in the way narrative practitioners share something of themselves -such as in the story with Sam and how when done in a way that shifts the power it can be really powerful. I do tend to ask if sessions have been helpful I think I would like to enquire more specifically about this and spend more time on it in the future to more fully understand what is working / not working.

  9. “Telling our Stories in Ways that Make us Stronger” is a gem. I think everyone should write a memoir about how they dealt with difficult parts of life. And other people would want to read them, I’m sure. There is so much personal and community wisdom to share! Thank you Barbara for your article, it is truly inspiring.

  10. I’m writing from Calgary, Alberta.

    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?

    I was particularly interested in, and inspired by, the idea of rich, long-term collaboration to create new ways of knowing and speaking. The collaboration between David White and Michael Epston is so cool, but even more intriguing to me is the collaborations that branch out from that – Cheryl’s engagement with their story, David Denborough’s engagement… It seems like a collaboration that was wholehearted and fully engaged, and because it was so rich and generous, it continues to ripple out in further wholehearted and engaged collaborations. I love that. It’s such a strong, hopeful counter to the scarcity narrative that often surrounds any kind of intellectual work, and I find it particularly engaging because even though I *do* believe we live within scarcity imposed by wealth inequality, racism, sexism, monosexism, cissexism, classism, etc – despite that, I think that these collaborations point to ways that marginalized communities and individuals can write new stories that share what we have and create new richness as a result.

    I am currently engaged in a yearlong collaborative project working on cultivating hope and a sense of self-efficacy among the participants. There are three of us designing, organizing, and facilitating the yearlong project, but there is a growing group of people participating. I love the idea that these collaborations can take on lives of their own, and continue on in new and unexpected ways.

  11. From Swansea, UK.
    The quote from Michael White about solidarity and the excerpt from Continuing Conversations particularly struck me as very human. Not professional, but human. I often think, when I work with clients, “there but for the grace of God go I”. This attitude in narrative therapy and this attitude in myself sums up the appeal of this approach for me.

  12. Barbara’s article was very useful in my context of the ministry. I work with a lot of people in the western world, south Africa, who moves in a cultural setting of not talking or experiencing their feelings. The internalize it. This brings hardship and trauma to most of them. This article gives me a lot of perspective in the narrative approach of REMEMBERING our lost ones. The act of celebrating and remembering is awesome. I have studied this also in the Biblical hebrew narrative and think this could make and awesome study. Perhaps we should attempt writing about this.

  13. Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger by Barb Wingard. I really got something out of this idea of talking more about death and talking about the stories from our friends and family who have died. It is a lot more healing to speak and remember the dead and speak about how much we loved them and the happiness they bought us.
    I also agree that at furnerals it is better to cry and wail then to keep quiet to let your grieve out and not worry what other people think. An enjoyable read.

  14. From Belfast, Northern Ireland

    The title of Barb Wingard’s paper ‘Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger’ summarises the context in which I wish to use Narrative Therapy.
    Much of my writing and teaching focuses on the lives of women (especially family members) in the last 50 to 100 years in Ireland: women who grew up on small farms and had to leave school early to look after younger siblings, do farm work and marry. That culture had good points too: you were expected to look after elderly relatives but this task usually fell to the daughters, particularly if unmarried.
    It is in honouring and uncovering the stories of these women through research and ‘shared stories’ (handed down through the generations and sometimes embellished along the way!) that I believe we find our own strength. As Barb says: ‘Hanging on to these old people is very much part of our strength. It is part of our story-telling.’
    Thank you, Barb Wingard, and all at The Dulwich Centre for a fascinating paper.

  15. Hello! This is Lucia, from Madrid, Spain. I think I’ve always known but this chapter comes to remind me that listening is as important as speaking in narrative and that taking into account the opinions of the others, treating them as you would treat yourself, being fair and understanding the other persons’ abilities and values so you can really appreciate what they propose and what they feel about something, is as importante and valuable as just creating a good narrative. Sam’s story has deeply touched me and has made me want more on narrative practices because I want to get to do something as wonderful and insightful as that.

  16. I related deeply with Barb Wingard’s ‘Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger.’ I aspire to be a counsellor who can “…see the abilities that people have but may not know they have” (Barb Wingard). Counsellors that approach the therapeutic relationship with a humanistic curiosity create a safe space for clients to reflect and embrace their vulnerabilities in the collaborative journey of storytelling which paves the way for healing. The beauty of walking in nature side-by-side on a journey of inquiry and understanding fosters therapeutic relationships of respect and acceptance. I believe this perspective is useful to draw on people’s strength and resilience while respecting the experiences of grief and trauma by paving a journey of hope and courage. It’s hard to specific how I would use in the future because there are so many inspiring and innovative concepts.

  17. The vulnerability around Sam’s story for both persons was impressive with a touch of humour – it demonstrated genuine reciprocated respect, free of power, judgement and hierarchy.

    These learnings take you on a journey where ‘an informed not knowing’ become part of you as a practitioner not just part of practice. I feel that I am on a tour as a co-tour guide – my role is to ‘assist people to know their own knowledge, to discover and rediscover their own knowings, values and alternate stories’ and the client’s role is to take me on this guided tour and ‘seek their versions of how they go about their living of their lives’ events and to re-story.

  18. I found myself at times with “a struggle” to grasp Histories so I read and re-read, then Aunty Barbara Wingard introduced me to “how a lot of problems nowadays relate to what happened in the past and how it is not a time to forget and move on but a time to remember and to stay connected and put people more in touch with their healing ways.” The story with Sam resonated with me especially the momentum and camaraderie and the regrading of the conversation where usual power relations were flipped.
    David Epston gave me a healthy reminder that respectful curiosity is a good thing.

  19. From Melbourne, Australia

    The stories of the histories of NT present as very consistent with it’s principals. I found all the readings to be comforting from the perspective of the client – that is empowering and ‘re-grading’. It was great to read about the history of family therapy – and timely in helping my daughter with an english task analysis (looking at the movie “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” and considering the role of Arnie vs wider contexts in the family’s problems).

    I recently experienced someone’s objections to the notion that all people’s experiences or stories are granted this special title of ‘knowledge’. I am wondering how it might be handled when someone holds on to their stories which might be viewed as problematic and destructive (i.e., I may perceive that they don’t make them stronger and are harmful to self/ others) and whether these things should be granted this title of knowledge. I am wondering if the clinician’s skill is in questioning to encourage alternative stories and how tricky or difficult this may be, and whether this still honors the client …

    I would like to use more questioning in my sessions – I notice that I may shy away from questioning at times because it feels invasive and I fear that the client might not have any answers – I think I need to have more faith- and also the tension between professional boundaries and joining with the client through including ones own challenges – this is more difficult when there is no screen / much less collaboration in my therapy context.

  20. From Eyre Peninsula S.A. Australia.

    Rather than being intrigued, I am more grateful to Michael White and David Epston for:
    (1) The Humanistic ethos that is demonstrated in this Chapter of work on Narrative Therapy. I have deep respect for the journey and spirit of adventure that these two professionals have undertaken. Which has culminated into a significant body of work, that is an enormous and invaluable legacy unselfishly shared in order to support others to learn and grow from it.
    (2)The unwavering bravery in continuing to pry open the mind to an expanse of creativity that can be available to anyone who chose to follow their lead. Especially in relationship building; and problem solving with the client/interviewee in the position of empowerment/shared power and shared influence in the Narrative Therapy process.

    It is difficult to single out or ‘short note’ what I would use in the future, as there is so much that resonates well with me. I enjoy and appreciate their life time of work, which in my opinion from having been a researcher myself, demonstrates enormous intelligence and expertise in combining the contrasting scientific methodology of ethnographic research with the freedom, creativity and flexible of a humanistic approach in working with others. Especially to bring this to a place and space that can be easily understood, embraced and practiced by such a wide audience across different: cultures, languages, communication modes.

    Simply Amazing!

  21. Angeline – Singapore

    I was intrigued by Michael White’s Legacies: particularly how his diverse readings together with his therapeutic co-research and partnership fed his inspiration and innovations. It affirms how valuable it is to read, write, explore, be open to learning & new ideas, feedback from clients and intellectual discourse with other therapists.
    I found Barbara’s article moving: conversations under a tree that reclaimed heartfelt authentic stories, reconnecting with lost loved ones and forgotten memories that made people stronger. And how it changed the ways we listened: searching for people’s abilities and knowledges and skills.
    And finally the conversation between Michael and Sam was an eye-opener and the same time inspiring.
    It speaks to me about deep connection and a more compassionate, enabling approach. One that decentres the therapist and seeks to empower the client and restore dignity.
    I hope to take these lessons forward my art therapy work as the externalising conversations & narrative metaphors can naturally complement and enrich the externalised art image and vice versa.

  22. There is much to be said about the passion and energy Michael White and David Epston committed to this work. It seems obvious that they loved what they do and loved the families they worked, both of which I believe are recipes for success. What a generous contribution to the field of family therapy they provided. During the interview with David Denborough, Michael White stated “Every family I meet with is different and comes up with unique ideas to address their problems, many of which I find that I could never have predicted, nor imagined.” This statement is powerful in that an experience therapist such Michael White would not allow some of the common stories that families experience mar his insight to the uniqueness of each family and each story. This statement I want to carry with me, to allow curiosity to lead me to the next question. To never think I know what the other person is thinking but to keep listening to the multiple stories people hold.
    I liked the article Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger by Barb Wingard and the work she did with grief. This provides yet another insight to how we can meet and sit with people. She is so humble and I can see how this can allow her patients to feel comfortable in sharing their stories. I am going to explore in debt how I can improve how I support people olong their grief journey.
    I feel this opens the door to so many good and new ideas for me to explore… I look forward to learning more.

  23. Alice Springs in Northern Territory Australia.

    I especially liked reading about Michael White and David Epston coming together and bouncing off each other to create new ways of being and approaches to therapy. It sounds very exciting and inspirational. The kind of relationship that invites creativity and encourages exploration.

    I also enjoyed reading Auntie Barbara Winguard’s description of working with the man who was grieving sitting on the earth.

    Both these stories stand out for me because they speak of people being true to themselves and sharing themselves with those they are working with.

    What I would like to take with me into my future practice from these stories is the courage to be wholly in my own skin while I walk with people on their own unique journeys.

  24. Although all the articles were fantastic, and gave inspiration to many future quotes and variance in my practice, I have found that reading through the discussion board has been the greatest teachers for me. All the people who are sharing how the history of this practice has an effect on them and their thinking, their interpretations, their own experiences, has been the greatest teacher on this one.

    For this, I say thank you to everyone who has posted and added insight. Your words are invaluable.

  25. A major idea I took from these stories is about the patient’s agency in the therapy relationship. Denborough mentions Michael White’s contribution of taking a ‘de-centred but influential position as a therapist’ where the patient held a key role in their own therapy and re-storying, as well as sharing this with others, making them not only patient but quasi-therapist in a generative way. The concept of co-research described by Epston adds to this notion of the patient having agency in their own re-storying of their lives. While the therapist is asking questions, the patient as co-researcher is discovering and developing their own knowledge. Aunty Barbara reinforces this by showing how telling stories makes people stronger, and finally Michael’s recount of his conversation with Sam shows how to encourage this co-contribution by valuing the skills and wisdom of the patient. I think these stood out for me because this is a path that I have had to take myself. I would like to take this theme of agency into future practice to empower people to be agents in their own growth and healing.

  26. I have to say I actually got a great deal from Phillipa’s closing. In it, she simply says that in Narrative Practices our goal is to remember we are not very different from one another and we all have something to contribute. While I believe that is the core of NP (the client is the authority, not the therapist), it’s important to be reminded of that every now and then.

  27. I was intrigued by Barbara Wingard’s article, in particular the ideas that through grieving we can become stronger and that by not addressing injustice the grieving process may be interrupted.
    I lived and worked in northern Canada for 14 years as a teacher and counsellor. During that time I met with many adolescents carrying multiple griefs. As described in this article, many students had experienced loss in many forms. It was tempting to perpetuate the idea of forgetting and moving on as it was so painful to exist in the present. “Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger” presents ideas that allow the honouring and acknowledging of what was lost to allow us to move forward relating to grief in a new way.
    Thank you for this article.

  28. I was really impacted by Barb’s article, ‘Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger.’

    This paragraph in particular stood out to me: “It’s important for us as Aboriginal people to make the links between justice and grief. We need the injustices addressed so that we can grieve our losses. We need our stories told and acknowledged. Working on our grief in these ways is working towards justice.”

    I believe this perspective is useful to keep in mind when working with anyone who has experienced grief and trauma, including (in my case) refugees. I was encouraged by the way this approach honours people’s backgrounds/experiences, not diminishing the grief or suffering in any way, while drawing on people’s strengths and resilience to nurture hope for the future.

  29. I was enchanted by Barbara’s phrase “telling our stories in ways that make us stronger’ which seems to encapsulate Narrative Therapy in so many ways. Other concepts such as ‘co-researching’ and acknowledging people’s potential for contribution also stood out.

  30. I found many of the phrases and concepts to be innovative and inspiring – probably because of their emphasis on inclusivity. Epston’s use of the term ‘co-research’ is illuminating because it makes tangible the idea that narrative practice is a joint ‘venture,’ an exchange of equals, each of whom brings to the consultation and journey his/her own knowledge(s) and suggestions. In the process of inquiry and understanding arises a meeting of the minds, thereby fostering a relationship based on respect and tolerance.

    I also resonated deeply with the notions of “informed not knowing,” Michael’s “solidarity” (a.k.a. empathy?) and Barb Wingard’s “talking together under the trees.” Despite academic credentials and experience, I believe that counselors who approach the therapeutic interaction with an open mind and heart, and allow for a “tradition of transparency” with input from others / outside witnesses, while creating an environment more conducive to questions, reflections, wondering(s), and vulnerability… open the door to grace, and to reaching the heart of the matter. Who among us knows what is best for another?

    Nature also has a way of paving the way for healing. As does a long walk & talk, side by side.

    I also loved Michael’s exchange with Sam in the hospital. It was so refreshing and humanizing, that i almost brought me to tears…

    Thank you!

  31. Hi,

    I love history, thinking about our origins, honoring our roots in order to stretch forward. Thus, I was totally immersed in reading through all the available literature and excited to learn more about the personalities that shaped what I appreciate to learn today.
    That some of these personalities, too, don’t come from middle class families and didn’t relate to their surrounding and practice in the traditional ways, excites me a lot. I will remember the pioneer work and contributions they have made in their field and the inspiration they have already shared with me while being part of this course, in times when I myself feel like a stranger.

    What particularly intrigued me was the further explanation of ‘co-researching’. Usually in my workshops I use the metaphor of being a ‘tour-guide’. People invite me to accompany them on a journey. In this journey it is my job to show them something new, new perspectives and I can invite them to join me in visiting some landmarks, while at the same time I make sure that they are safe, comfortable and confident enough to explore new ground. But it is the participants who decide the speed, the direction, where they want to take a break, have a deeper look and how far they want to go. I like this metaphor for I feel it strengthens participants’ agency, but it still centres a lot around me as the facilitator and puts me in a position that suggests I’d know more. Since I also consider myself in the Freirian tradition of being a teacher and student alike, I have struggled with this aspect of my metaphor and am now thinking how the metaphor of a ‘co-researcher’ could be translated into my practice.

    Reading through the material, I felt so much enthusiasm, inspiration and believe in their work shining through the authors’ words. This is something really special for me, something that I always try to keep with me and that is often challenged by systems and challenges in my work-place, by people around me…it’s so good to know that there are people who so actively and pursue and live these aspects of their practice!

    Thank you!

  32. I have loved reading these shared histories that have contributed to such a beautiful way of working.

    I love that in a time of ‘evidence-based’ practice we can still feel enchanted and spiritually lifted with unique ways to address the problem’s that enter a persons life, and that David and Michael both wanted to share their idea’s and work collaboratively instead of competitively.

    I had never come across the term ‘ethnographic imagination’ however have been working with the concept since being invited into narrative ways of working in 2009. David said it beautifully when he called it the “informed not knowing”.

    I sometimes experience parents who want strategies to stop certain behaviours from occurring, yet after asking the child a series of questions about the problems origins, its relationship, and what the problems intentions are. I find the parent seeing their own child through different eyes and helping their child come up with unique ways in which they as a team can tackle the problem. This is great as i am witnessing a greater bond in their relationship and have not had to use a general prescriptive assumption attached to a list of solutions that bring about high expectations and a greater sense of failure.

    What i am going to take away from this chapter is Aunty Barb’s work and words on grief and the honouring and taking with us those we love but have lost, I think this is important! and the hilarious example of Michael Whites story of his pants falling down which for me says ‘be yourself’ and treat everyone with dignity and respect.

  33. Reading this chapter ties up the significant elements of all previous chapters – going back to history where it all started. What stood out for me were David Epston’s way of describing his role focusing on co-researching problems and specifically the relationships people have with the problems – the person is not the problem the problem is the problem. David describes his role is to assist people by using narrative practices for them to know their own knowledge and enable those hidden alternative stories come to light. This has made me reflect on my own approach working with people – sometimes I think we may avoid asking those specific questions to enable those alternative stories come to light thinking we are causing further trauma or ” putting” ourselves and people we assist in an uncomfortable and vulnerable situation. This will lead to thin conclusions without giving people who we assist the opportunity to explore and re-tell their stories and meanings to repair a broken identity.

    I really do relate to Michael White’s “Sense of Solidarity”. I would describe this as respecting the people you work with without using “professional assumption”, validating their experience and knowledge in a solidary and humane approach. What a great example!

    Barb Wingard’s words of wisdom were capturing and inviting. Having an understanding of one’s past/ history, the effects of the past and how it plays a role in forming one’s identity and ways to heal and become stronger. In my field of work it is about sharing stories as part of each unique individual healing. This course has provided me an alternative way to be part of the healing process utilising narrative responses and has reinforced the importance of listening skills.

  34. Two things that really stood out for me. One was the camaraderie and spirited collaboration Michael White and David Epston had with one another. How they offered each other “rigorous intellectual discussion, a place to share their evolving practice, and opportunities to debate why they did or did’t pursue a certain direction in their therapy sessions”. Have in only a fragment of what these two have in one’s work would be just a blessing and enrich ones work in ways one may have never thought was possible. I have been fortunate in my career to have always had great mentors which I really see as a must in the line of what that I do, and consider myself so lucky have had the mentors that I have had over the years. It has allowed my to ask questions and most importantly to take risks in my work that I may not have otherwise taken.
    The second was the story David Epston shared on how he always saw himself as a researcher, being research on the relationship that people have with their problems rather then on the people themselves. This idea excites me, and provides and different kind of energy when I think about the kind of work that I want to do with my clients.
    I guess the part that I want to take with me in the future is the idea of always being curious with my clients and their relationship with their problems; having the outlook that every client brings forth new knowledge, skills and ways of understanding and knowing, which will always keep this work interesting. The other thing that I would like to take with me is the idea of enriching clinical relationships; right now I am at a stage where I am seeking those relationships out in order to support my own learning, I would like to remember in the future how helpful that has been and be able to provide that to others entering the field. The other piece I would like to take with me, is always having co-workers and people around me who will continue to push me in my work, to ensure that I never get stale in the work I do with clients.

  35. Deborah – Hong Kong

    I have often struggled with cohesively connecting the ideas from the experts in the fields. I would read of an expert’s particular theory and feel I should keep that separate from others’ theories. The expert seemed to be able to build his or her own style, and I would quickly become frustrated that I couldn’t plant myself in one arena or another. and build my own style. So, I often feel I should be able to identify with one approach more than another in order to become more experienced.
    I clearly understand the value of reading vastly, but I felt I should be able to identify with one approach more than any other. After reading the Legacies of Michael White, I seemed to finally realize that great teachers are lifelong learners. I was so encouraged by his approach to reading, writing, teaching, and learning. I believe this is the best way to honor ourselves and those with whom we work by stretching our own ideas to incorporate the minds of many.

    And, Barb Wingard writes beautifully about the idea of listening for others’ abilities, knowledges, and skills. I believe this is the crux of what we all aim to do.

  36. This chapter was thought provoking for me in thinking about what my therapeutic history is, whose work do I draw from, how am I innovating and involving this knowledge that I have developed. I spoke a while ago with a supervisor about this idea and the importance for me of having an eclectic style, whilst holding onto a manualised approach for guidance. I feel that this is beginning to solidify for me as I go along in my practice and collect additional idea’s and methodologies. I’m getting a good sense of where I am going to, but only by looking backward on the history I have experienced in building my personal brand of therapy.

    I enjoyed the ideas shared by Barb Wingard in ‘Telling stories that make us stronger’ around grief and loss, with particular reference to the points she makes about integrating the relationships and experiences that we have had and folding these into our lives, as they shape the person we are today. I have been feeling stuck with a client after her visit to my clinic this week, she appears stable now and I have been wondering how we might go forward with processing her traumatic history, given her minimal childhood memories. But thinking about the experiences she has had as strengthening her, may be a good place for us to continue.

  37. This chapter had me thinking a lot about, among other things, the way every individual’s or group’s story is also one small piece in a gigantic web of story, or history.

    From my perspective, Aunty Barbara Wingard’s article was particularly sobering and grounding.

    I also thought a lot about the section on ‘broader social issues’ in David Denborough’s Reflections on the Legacies of Michael White, and recalled the fear and stress of going through my own teenage years in the ‘nuclear shadow’. That also had me thinking about the leap in my awareness of climate change around 10 years ago, and the visceral horror of realising what I’d brought my children into.

    These days I wonder a lot how it is for my kids, and others of their generation, never having even known a time when there wasn’t a constant background noise of global doom … and living lives where, with each year that passes, the predictions get more frightening.

    Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to shift my work increasingly into the area of trying to find ways to help younger generations deal with the world they’ve found themselves born into, and fight for change – social and environmental (although I don’t really see them as easily separable). I guess this is one of the reasons narrative practice has hooked me in. It’s giving me whole new ways to think about what I might do in this field.

    The stories of Michael White and David Epston’s collaboration, along with Cheryl White and Ann Epston, are inspiring and fascinating, and I love that the spirit of their collaboration – full of cooperation, and openness, and goodwill, and a drive to discover and learn and share and create – infuses everything that narrative practitioners continue to do.

    • Afterthought: Was trying to pinpoint what really feels different to me personally about the way my kids are growing up with climate change, compared to my experience of growing up in the nuclear shadow – and I think it’s that nuclear catastrophe had a lot of really horrific imagery associated with it, and it felt like something that *might* happen; whereas the imagery around climate change isn’t so instantly nightmarish, but there is a knowledge that it definitely *is* happening and will keep on worsening … Perhaps that’s a different type of stress for kids to be growing up with.

  38. I particularly enjoyed Cheryl White’s reflection on the collaboration between Michael White and David Epston. As a new graduate I was stuck by the great relationship Michael and David had. It appeared that they had a friendship and an effective professional relationship. It reminded me of the importance of surrounding myself with enthusiastic, like minded, critical thinkers who push me to reflect on my practice and encourage me through difficult times.


  39. Where did it all begin? Cheryl White: we feel the energy in the first meeting between Michael and David; their different backgrounds, appreciating each other’s differences, having endless conversations and seeing their ideas and practice as “common property” that are so generative in any such deep relationship.
    Legacies of Michael White, David Denborough: it is interesting to observe the topics discussed in a journal in 1984, non-sexist language, the status of women in family therapy, feminism and domestic violence, all still so relevant today. White’s multi-faceted approach to learning, including feedback from his therapeutic consultations, conversational partnerships with others, his wider readings, learning from his teaching, cross cultural partnerships, his general transparency and most importantly his spirit of adventure. White’s approach to the “fear busting” with young children is awe inspiring, how “pride and dignity would come to replace terror in their eyes”, so applicable in today world. White’s considerations relating to power and masculinity and the influence of feminism.
    Anthropology, archives, co-research and narrative therapy, an interview with David Epston: the concept of “co-research” — the idea of ‘informed not knowing’, being an “expert” in a process that involves setting aside our own assumptions and entering into an inquiry where we seek others’ versions of how they go about the living of their lives; and being an “expert” in asking specific questions that guide people to discover the grounds of their knowing.
    Aunty Barbara Wingard, Telling our Stories in ways that make us Stronger: how there are different ways of grieving, where silence does not fit in with Aboriginal culture; the growing of stories between a father and son, stories that had been forgotten which when brought to life allow Mr. Anger to jump out of the son’s body, a wonderful image; the idea that not only are we telling stories differently but we also listening differently, for people’s abilities, knowledges and skills.
    Continuing the Conversations, Cheryl White: White’s “flipping” of the “usual power relations” between patient and therapist in having the patient (Sam) fetch a pin so White can keep his pants up will remain a terrific example of his empowerment in the therapeutic conversation.

  40. I found very interesting the idea of the psychologist as an antropologist. The idea of knowing the knowledge of the person is a very powerfull one, because assist to the collaboration or co-research in the context of therapy. This idea is helpfull, I have a minor in antropology, and the knowledge and posibilities that ethnography gives are countless.In this sense, the idea of ethnographic imagination is a valuable one.

  41. Brisbane, Australia

    I also liked Michael and Sam’s conversation, funny but very powerful. The idea of co-researching as well is a useful construct that I will use.

  42. Ute, São Paulo, Brazil
    Once again thank you for sharing these impressive histories.
    The two that are most outstanding to me are:
    – the one of David Epston in which he describes the concept of co researching “as it structures another way of knowing and being together” . I imagine that one of the prerequisites for this is also a verbal and non verbal language that both the therapist and the patient have in common, know and share.
    – the one of Michaels conversation with Sam. In this conversation I admire, that both the therapist and the patient speak from the same place. There is no hierarchy and there is, too, a language verbal and non verbal that Michael and Sam have in common, know and share.

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
    If you talk to a man in his language, that goes to his heart.
    Nelson Mandela


  43. The idea that caught my attention the most is about what David Epston defined as “co-research”.
    He said that “the purpose of the person who comes to consult with me is generally to co-reasearch ways in which to change their relationship with the particular problem of their lives”.
    The therapist and the client are in a peers relation, both of them are involved at the same “level” to find new alternative knowledges and stories.
    I find that this vision about therapy as a co-research can be very useful in my personal practice.

  44. I really appreciated David Epston’s thoughts on co-research. It is a wonderful way of storing knowledge that is passed on to us from the people who consult with us and becomes a useful tool when encountering a similar problem in future.
    I think his view of ethnographic imagination fits in so well with the ethics of narrative practice, as it considers cultural and historical context in its inquiry and it is something I would certainly want to learn more about.
    For personal reasons the story of the interaction between Sam and Michael was my favourite. I too hear voices and traditional psychological practices have always marginalized me and undervalued the contributions I could make in my own life. So, it made me smile and brought back fond memories of my first encounters with narrative therapy and of my first interactions with David Epston as a co-researcher and also co-author of my now richly described story.
    My successes in overcoming the single story-line told and retold by society and its narrow views of people who hear voices, lie within this history of narrative practice and it was an enriching experience to look at it and acknowledge the origins and the people who are linked to its development and its growth and metamorphosis over time .

  45. I liked the recount of Michael and Sam’s conversation in the Psychiatric hospital. The shift in the usual power balance and the feeling of efficacy allowed to Sam was wonderfully illustrated. A great example of building connection and it made me smile reading it 🙂

  46. I liked to the connection between David and Michael. That first meeting where they started to journey together into narrative ideas and practice. I ordered two of Michael White’s books while I was in this section.

  47. The story/ conversation between Sam and Michael has been most capturing for me in this lesson. The idea of challenging existing notions about mental health “clients” or “patients” and providing them with an agency similar to our own is so refreshing. It concretizes the concept of breaking the barriers between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
    The ideas of co-research and ethnographic imagination mentioned by David Epston have also got me thinking. Once again, both these ideas question the premise of ‘expertise’ and provide the client an opportunity to be an equal. It is congruent to the idea of collaboration that Narrative Practice stands for.

    As someone who comes from a culture where the therapist is perceived as a n expert and, at times, an advisor, these ideas are not only refreshing, but also provide practical ways of engaging in collaborative practice and expressing a sense of solidarity. It helps me identify areas within my own practice where I can choose to become a co-researcher.

    I would definitely like to bring in the concept of ‘solidarity’ more vividly into my practice by actively inviting those consulting me to suggest and contribute not only to their lives but also my own. Another important idea that I find very significant given my socio-cultural context is the idea of honoring one’s grief as stated by Aunty Barbara. In my culture, losses are not often spoken about and grieving is limited to certain ways and times. This often makes it difficult for individual to process the loss, especially when the losses are not perceived as valid losses by the society. I would definitely look at inviting people to talk and share about their past, the losses and begin a process of honoring grief.

    Looking forward to the next lesson! 🙂

  48. This was a fascinating chapter. I think the work by Wingard caught my attention the most because I work in Aboriginal settings and I do often see how sharing stories empowers the storyteller and the people listening when it is about a shared problem or memory. I am working with someone now who is sharing early traumatic memories for himself and all his people. He often talks about being a voice for those who never had a chance to speak. I get it.

  49. I loved Sam’s story- so honest, respectful and inclusive, in which Sam is an equal, who identifies with Michael as Michael does with him.

  50. How compelling each story was! I could find something in each one. I was moved by the story of that first meeting of Michael White and David Epston and their subsequent relationship that developed such an innovative way of being with others in conversations. I found myself longing for that same relationship with a colleague. I marveled at Cheryl White and her contributions, which up until now, I was completely unaware. I read of feminism and its influence on narrative therapy, and considered our current culture in the US and the influence of materialism and technology on our social conversations. What types of fears must our children deal with as they navigate through recent events? As a woman of African-American heritage, I think of conversations within my own family as we grapple with the recent violent events against people of color. Each article provoked me to explore other links outside of this chapter. I watched and listened to Desmond Tutu as he described Ubuntu philosophy. I signed up for a newsletter to receive more information about Narrative Practices. I am attending a Narrrative Therapy workshop in 2 weeks to further develop my understanding. I am inspired to be a very present “co-researcher” with people as we investigate the influences that are affecting their lives, their stories.

    Thank you so much for this opportunity to thicken my own values as a therapist. I am looking forward to the next chapter!

  51. I really loved this chapter. The work of Michael White and David Epston has informed the way I work. I was lucky to have a supervisor in the first year of my training to be an educational psychologist who introduced me to their work and had worked with Michael. I feel the most important message from Michael White and David Epston was the way they always felt there was something new to read, learn and do, every book, family, person brought something new. For me that is narrative practice; a new start, a new look, a new narrative everyday, which makes us all richer because it enables change in everyone.

    The way Michael and David worked together is the story which stays with me. I am lucky enough to work with colleagues (and have friends) who like to share, reflect and think – I don’t know what I would do without them.

    Thank you for a lovely chapter (I have read it twice)

  52. Epston’s concept of “informed not knowning” sounds very inspiring to me. I linked this forward to R. V. Peavy’s sociodynamic counseling where the counselor is seen as a co-researcher of menings. I draw a parallel even with Sam’s story when Peavy explanined that in his way of intending counseling “each individual is viewed as capable of constructing his/her own life based on the discovery of what has personal meaning”.
    I am also moved by the M. White’s idea of solidarity in therapy who introduce a sense of com-passion (from the latin com-patire, struggling together).

  53. David Epston’s notion of “informed not knowing” is one I find particularly useful. While we cannot pretend to know what it is to live the life of another person, through conversation, education, reflection and experience, we can inform ourselves around some of the many problems we, as human beings, typically encounter. First we can become better at problem-recognition and problem-naming, and then we can become better at nurturing and assisting others who are searching to solve or resolve certain problems in their lives. From a position of sensitivity, enquiry, expertise and genuine care, we can join with others in co-research, helping them to “know their own knowledge”.

    Aunty Barbara Wingard’s point around the importance of acknowledging cultural differences is one that stands out for me. If one is to engage authentically in co-research, one must seek to understand the cultural constructs and assumptions that go to make up the client, their understanding of themselves and their responses to the world. Her suggestion that the “silent cries” of grief are damaging, particularly to young Aboriginal men, is a reminder again of how important it is to tell our stories to ourselves and each other, and to have these stories heard in a place of respectful understanding.

    Because of this, I find the innovation project mentioned in the previous chapter, “A continuing invitation to address privilege and dominance,” to be particularly important and relevant. As we seek to further our understanding of others and to respect their differences, so it is vital that we keep in mind the possible existence of undetected cultural biases and that we prepare ourselves to engage with differences we may not yet have imagined.

  54. Aunty Barbara Wingard’s piece I enjoyed.How the dominant culture’s way of expressing grief is the polar opposite of the Aboriginal way.Silent cries that can go on for years and eat away at one’s spirit.How healing cannot really begin until those in the past have been acknowledged.I was particularly interested in this having worked in palliative care. Aunty Barbara playing the character of grief is inspiring.

  55. Well, the story of Michael White and David Epstein was interesting–especially the idea of how they met with and were shaped in their thought by local aboriginal people. I also really liked the story by Barbara Wingard about meeting with people under trees and externalizing grief.

    I will say that the Michael and Sam conversation is pretty challenging for me. I hear that Michael’s experience was used to engage Sam in the telling of his own experience, and also to “re-grade” Sam to a position of a leveled playing field, place of dignity, etc. But at the same time, the dialogue makes me feel very uncomfortable.

    I’ve worked in a psychiatric facility–inpatient and partial hospital. In my experience, when people are experiencing psychosis, they are often very confused, and their delusions are making them very scared. While I do think it’s important to treat people with dignity, see the whole person, etc. I also believe that when people feel out of control and scared that they also want to feel that they can depend on someone to protect/care for them. Talking to a client or anyone really–about one’s pants being unbuttoned seems so risky (this could be really taken in the wrong way), and this could make a “Sam” even more scared.

    Also, it’s unusual for me to start talking to clients about myself. It’s my orientation that the space is theirs, ours really to co-create, but to be led by the person seeking consultation.

    This particular dialogue seems extremely provocative, but again this is out of context. What happens afterward? Is Michael better able to work with Sam in taking medications, or to externalize the delusions/voices? It’s hard to take something like this dialogue in, outside of any context.

    • Hi Dayna,

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your care/concern about conversations with people experiencing ‘psychosis’. Yes, Michael’s honesty about his own predicament in that moment (he hadn’t made this up .. it was really happening) and Sam being able to make a contribution in that moment was helpful in regrading the situation, in promoting Sam’s sense of agency, and in assisting Michael.

      I agree that care needs to be taken in sharing one’s experiences in any setting … but never to do so, or to keep ‘professionals’ personal experience always obscured/hidden is also hazardous. Ron Coleman (who has considerable experience of what is often referred to as ‘psychosis’) speaks of the need for ‘recovery’ for the professsions. His videos that can be found here: https://dulwichcentre.com.au/five-video-clips-from-ron-coleman/

      The next chapter in this course is on Collaboration and Accountability and it might shed further light on the care, ethics and politics that informs narrative practice.

      I hope this is helpful

  56. Aunty Barbara’s reflections on grief within the community has made me think about the collective nature of emotion. One person’s grief is a very powerful emotion that can be hard to come to terms if you feel like you are on your own with it.

    I think that seeing grief and the loss of a loved one(s) in terms of the character of the person as well as the sense of loss you personally experience can be healing. Also realisation of the collective grief and impact of a loss on a community of people can also be affirming for someone feeling that the grief they are experiencing is lonely .

  57. Sam’s story struck me also. I liked the words of Michael quoted above where he talks about those “who refuse to draw a sharp distinction between their lives and the lives of others”. As community workers and therapists is is essential that we see the other in ourselves – we are not different.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *