Tod Augusta-Scott, Canada

 

Over the last five years, in the field of working with men who abuse, Michael’s work has had a significant impact on the four provinces that make up Atlantic Canada. I have recently trained every worker in the Departments of Justice for both the provinces of Newfoundland and New Brunswick. The departments have officially adopted a narrative approach to the work. This training has focused workers on issues of collaboration, identity, externalising, social justice, and so forth. The workers are excited about being able to move away from didactic, oppositional, education approaches and move toward an invitational, respectful, collaborative engagement with men.

In the provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, I have done training with numerous groups on this issue and there has been significant interest. Four of the six programs in Nova Scotia are now significantly influenced by Michael’s work. I also train every new Child Protection worker in the province in a narrative approach to working with men.

Bridges also co-hosts (with the Hincks-Delcrest) the Canadian Domestic Violence Conference and the Winds of Change Therapy Conference, which also strongly reflect Michael’s legacy. I am also involved in training various organisations both nationally and internationally in the work. For example, I am a consultant for the Canadian military on issues of domestic violence, which has helped move the institution to increase its own accountability around the issue and helped in the therapeutic engagement of families, all of which reflects Michael’s influence.

While the above sounds like a story about me, I really see my work as an extension of Michael’s (and Alan Jenkin’s) story/ influence. Narrative ideas have proved very useful here, and the fact that they are being taken up in such formal contexts – and around issues as serious as men’s violence and abuse – speaks to both their effectiveness and appeal.

I have two colleagues whose creative narrative work I really like. Tionda Cain is doing work and research on looking at the multiple stories in the lives of women who are abused with a narrative sensibility. As well, Debbie Van Horne is doing some very interesting couples therapy, in which she often uses conversations about sex as an entry point to re-author alterative narratives about the relationships. She practices with a narrative sensibility (for example, focusing on meaning, identity, externalising, alternative stories about the relationship, and so on). It would be helpful to have this kind of work receive the same kind of formal recognition in Canada as the work with men – especially work with women experiencing domestic violence who want to stay with their partners, which, while being a complex issue, is what many women tell us is their preference (if the issues of violence are addressed).

I think the future is about identifying the common ideas that underlie narrative practice while celebrating the plurality and diversity of how these ideas can be applied in practice (for example, the multitude of possibilities about narrative maps to conversations). I’m also thinking that there needs to be more development of online ways of working in a narrative manner.

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