John Winslade


Narrative practice is in the end about the shaping of conversations in ways that constitute people’s lives. It acknowledges that the discourses that imbue all conversations give shape to the contours and the substance of our relationships, our institutions, and our personal identities and seeks to take advantage of the possibilities that such an idea affords. The ‘deconstructive impulse’ in narrative questions enables us to establish a particular purchase on the constitutive power of conversation, which is not so much liberating as it is generative of new forms of living. Therefore, there is exciting and limitless possibility for the expansion of these ideas and practices into many new domains.

I am more than a little interested in the spread of narrative practice into domains of practice that are outside of therapy. For example, there are hundreds of possibilities for conversations in schools that may or may not be called counselling but are often about the production of personhood. These conversations can be enormously shaping of the efforts of young people to become authors of their own directions in life, to ‘become somebody,’ always in relation to other ‘somebodies’. There are myriad little tentacles being stretched out in a myriad of directions. I think of creative work being done in mediation, in undercover anti-bullying teams, in restorative practices, and in career counselling as some examples.

For example, a small group of school counsellors have been taking the idea of re-membering practices and working in groups with children and young people who are grieving the loss of a loved-one. They recently published an article about grief groups in schools focused on re-membering conversations. Several school counsellors have been taking up on Mike Williams’ idea of ‘undercover’ anti-bullying teams in schools to outstanding effect.

My fervent wish is that narrative practice continues to grow and develop. This means that it needs to look back on Michael White’s contributions with enormous gratitude but without reverting to a deadening orthodoxy. Professional practice always needs to respond to changing conditions of living and to emergent ways of making sense of these changes. New theories of practice will always be needed. Michael’s work is not finished, nor will it ever be. It is up to us to carry it forward. In subtle ways, the world is already a different place than the world that gave rise to the earliest impulses of narrative practice and we need to study these changes carefully and seek out the new possibilities that arise.

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