Gaye Stockell, Australia
Four years ago, I moved my independent therapy practice into rooms in a busy General Practice centre. Back then, the six doctors working there did not know about narrative therapy and when I introduced myself and my approach they responded in a polite and somewhat hesitating manner.
Despite the doctors’ lack of enthusiasm, the ideas and practices that were introduced to me by Michael more than twenty years ago stay with me. Consequently, my commitment to questioning aspects of the dominant medical model – to challenging pathologising and psychologising practices; to taking a decentred position as people name their concerns and reflect on their relationship with these concerns; and to remaining connected to the wider context – these, along with other narrative ideas and practices, have drawn interest from my colleagues. They are also becoming more inclined to engage in a different kind of conversation.
The Medicare funding of therapy services introduced more than two years ago has further added to my being able to share these narrative ways of viewing the world. My routine reports to the referring GP following every sixth session are written collaboratively with clients and may be seen as documents of identity. They provide an opportunity for those embarking on bringing about change to give voice to their preferences for life and to speak of the steps they are taking.
A recent development in my work with the doctors has been the introduction of outsider-witness practices. Limited time is a limiting factor but even passing conversations with the doctors may provide testimony that can be recorded and re-told.
While in a supervision conversation recently with a team working in a hospital drug and alcohol service, I was reminded of Tim Winton’s book Cloudstreet. We were talking of our relationships with the medical model and associated discourses and agreed that our hopes, values and intentions were about resisting the ‘them and us’ discourse and instead celebrating the ‘us and us and us’ ways of thinking and doing. I think Michael would like that.