Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-Telling Rights by David Denborough

G’day and welcome to this Friday Afternoon on-line launch of the Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-Telling Rights. David Denborough works at Dulwich Centre and Dulwich Centre Foundation and this Charter is part of a broader project in relation to ‘narrative justice’ that Dulwich Centre Foundation International is currently engaged with:

* When meeting with people whose problems are the result of human rights abuses and injustices, how can we ensure we do not separate healing from justice?

This Charter proposes a framework for considering storytelling rights. We hope it will spark discussions about the rights of people who have experienced trauma/social suffering in relation to how their stories are told and received. We invite you to discuss this Charter with us, with friends, with colleagues, in your organisation and elsewhere. You may like to endorse this Charter or offer suggestions, changes, and or additions. Welcome to this Friday Afternoon discussion!



Further reading:

A human rights approach to psychotherapy by Khader Rasras

A framework for receiving and documenting testimonies of trauma by David Denborough

The Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-Telling Rights has been inspired and challenged by the work of the:

* Just Therapy Team from New Zealand
* Reclaiming our stories, reclaiming our lives project
* Ibuka: the national genocide survivors association of Rwanda
* Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture in Ramallah, Palestine

The Charter is based on narrative principles of responding to trauma (see Michael White, 2004; or Trauma: Narrative responses to traumatic experience).

For discussions about human rights discourse see:

Gustavo Esteva & Madhu Suri Prakah (1998) Grassroots Port-Modernism: remaking the soil of cultures. London: Zed Books.

For information about narrative therapy responses to trauma see:

Michael White (2004) ‘Working with people who are suffering the consequences of multiple trauma: A narrative perspective.’ International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 1:45-76. Reprinted in the book Trauma: Narrative responses to traumatic experience.

Published on February 25, 2015

This Post Has 45 Comments

  1. Mahlie Jewell

    Having read this I realise I do a lot of work with people (and with myself) to dig into the negative stories and unpack them but not so much on the positive (strengths-based) stories and this is something I need to do to keep in balance. So much of the time people need to speak about their trauma, which is important and valid, but it’s also my job to remind them that they have stories of incredible strength. Thank you for this.

  2. Eden Goodman

    I was very intrigued by article 3 because I have found within my culture that there is a stigma towards inviting other people into your trauma. There is an assumption that people must learn to cope independently and not burden others with their past experiences. I think this mindset is really isolation and can make people feel alone and misunderstood. In many ways I believe therapist have been the ones to occupy this space and walk alongside client’s as they reclaim their lives after trauma but I like the idea that anyone can be a companion in this journey.

  3. Eden

    I was really intrigued by article three because of it’s emphasis on inviting others into the process of reclaiming your life after trauma. I think there is a stigma towards this idea of sharing your trauma at least within my culture. There is an assumption that your trauma is your own and it is your responsibility to find ways to cope. I like the idea of sharing your trauma and having someone walk alongside you during your healing. I think in many ways therapists have occupied this space but I like the idea of anyone taking on this role.

  4. Eugene Ford

    I loved this presentation and the concepts covered in the Narrative Therapy Charter for Storytelling Rights. I was particularly moved by Article 6, Everyone has the right to have their skills and knowledges of survival to be respected, honoured and acknowledged. It is powerful to consider how validating and enriching it would be for survivors of trauma to know that they have unique perspective on trauma and recovery that will be deeply rewarding for other people to know…one that may assist them in their own journeys of recovering. Thank you David for your presentation, I really really enjoyed it.

  5. Jason

    This charter, and Narrative Therapy generally, are inspiring to me. Having worked in communication for social change in developing contexts, I have often been struck by the impact of trauma and injustice on the ability of individuals and communities to learn and achieve the “outcomes” desired by programme planners. Now, in response to my dissatisfaction with many issues around development work, I am studying to become a chaplain and therapist. The idea that justice cannot be separated from healing and vice versa is a powerful reflection for me and rings so true to my experience. I really look forward to digging in more into this community of practice. Thanks!

  6. Sue

    Thank you for sharing the charter – it was lovely to reinforce the articles to ensure the story teller has the opportunity heal whilst sharing their story.

  7. Anna Keelty

    Article 5 Everyone has the right for their responses to trauma to be acknowledged. No one is a passive recipient of trauma. People always respond. People always protest injustice. This speaks to me deeply. As I often see my clients suffering more from how they have evaluated their response to trauma, or how their loved ones react to their trauma. How so many of us walk around with our trauma closely guarded and protected from the world. It is necessary to have a place where we are seen, our experiences heard, and to be joined in the protest of injustice. It feels very fitting for my clients, what is currently happening in the US and the world right now.

  8. aliceam

    It is so interesting and important to me to locate the work we do of healing within a lens of justice. When we are working with people to allow them to heal and re frame their stories, making sure to have an analysis of power in order to be able to speak to justice at the same time means that we aren’t blaming those that are experiencing hardship and injustice for these experiences, and are instead able to locate their experiences within the larger structures that they are occurring in.

    I think it’s interesting to use a charter like the charter of human rights, given the problematic ways that the charter of human rights excludes certain groups of people (e.g. non-citizens) from being worthy of human rights.

  9. Chrissy Gillmore

    Although I really like each of the articles in the charter, number four particularly resonated with me, “Everyone has the right to be free from having problems caused by trauma and injustice located inside them internally as if there is some deficit in them.”

    “Caused by trauma”, yes, so true. And so many young people I work with seem to carry the weight of the problems as if they’re theirs to carry.

    “Located inside them” – I love this. They are free from having problems from what was done to them. They don’t belong to them, therefore, the dark cloud of the problems and deficits can hang over somewhere else.

    This is really a powerful article. All the articles are beautiful, but this one is especially something powerful to me.

    I also really love the birdsong in the video, the squawking and the papers being blown by the wind. It made for a really nice bunch of naturalness. :0)

  10. Park Jae Wan

    It was very interesting to hear about the history of the Dulwich Center. In addition, it was helpful to explain what narrative therapy was by using seven articles in point by point, which made it easier to understand what it was about. It was also happy to feel the beautiful scenery of the Dulwich center in Adelaide.

  11. Bonnie McCrossan

    Hamilton came out as a movie last week and the discourse surrounding it has been very interesting, tying into the song “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”. We see the life of Alexander Hamilton, we see his ups and downs and what is assumed to be his story however so many people since have filled in the gaps the musical missed – Hamilton and his friends, whilst abolitionists, still owned slaves, the stories of the Native Americans who were murdered through colonisation, aren’t told. So much of our story is filtered through a lens and we miss so much context that helps to give our story more meaning. We tell our own story but its difficult to focus on more than one plot point sometimes, we need others to help fill in our stories, to give us another viewpoint. Our stories are all encompassing and deserve to be told.

  12. Louise

    Very engaging, involved and inclusive style of discussion around narrative therapy story telling rights. I have found the articles well thought out and lays out what is to be expected in session and the freedom of the ‘story teller’ to use their language and interpretation without fear of being judged.

  13. Abby

    I really enjoyed the concepts. I particularly liked the idea of the story teller being able to involve the people that they believe will help them to heal. While my practice is always guided by the young people I work with, the idea of inviting someone to be involved, who they feel with help them heal is not something that I have previously done.

  14. Andrew

    David Denborough’s personality and clarity shine throughout this video. What a pleasure it is to engage in a modality that is accessibly, contextually and colourfully explained. I am thrilled to engage with David’s humility and candour to rather dense material. It seems that most of the literature on Narrative Therapy I have encountered is framed in this way; simple, clear, candid and very accessible. It is a pleasure to learn from this foundation. I am encouraged to learn about this charter, especially because of its focus on empowerment. It is a refreshing stance that supports and champions individuals to be the custodians of their integrity and their stories.
    I greatly appreciate the openness of this charter. It is very inclusive and even suggested that it can and should be moulded to fit other contexts.

    I’m looking forward to learning more.

  15. Paul Hobson

    What Denborough discusses in both the video and his article in regards to the rights of the client is such a welcome to someone like myself who approaches work from a strengths-based approach.

    As I discussed in an earlier reply, narrative therapy is a collaboration between helper and client and this is seen not only in the video, but more so in Deneborough’s article. In this, the process of creating a testimony with a client is a series of collaborative steps as well as checks and balances between the helper and the client. The understanding that the client is an expert in their own story telling is seen in all stages and especially the follow up where facts are checked and the final word on accuracy is in the hands of the client.

    In many other approaches to the therapy process, the professional is seen as the expert and the power holder in the relationship. However, in Deneborough’s words and in the narrative therapy process, the empowerment is handed off to the client. Something that in my experiences has in many cases helped in the problem solving process as it allows the client to feel heard, understood and hold some belief that they are an equal.

  16. Lizzie

    Hello, I’m from Melbourne. I only heard about Narrative Therapy through a social worker friend and was excited to learn more about this respectful non blaming approach to counselling and community work. In my job as a recreation therapist much of my time is spent with people who have been homeless and traumatised. Often their stories and their traumatic experiences go ‘hand in hand’ with an injustice or a series of injustices. When David talked about the ‘Reclaiming our stories, reclaiming our life’ project, I thought , what a great way to approach healing for victims of injustice through story.

    For me, the 7 articles iterated the person centred model that I use in my work practices, but further emphasised a number of positive steps to ensure clients stories can be held in a supportive and ethical environment. They are not just listened to, but clearly heard.

  17. Serenity G Silvers

    I appreciate these concepts being put together in a succinct description of therapeutic, story-telling justice. As I read through the Articles that are included in the Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-telling Rights, I can see how they are applicable to individuals and to communities, enhancing a sense of validation and empowerment.
    Individual and Community traumas must be heard and understood and their response to the traumas that they have endured must be validated in order to heal their lives and their relationships with others. As people are able to externalize the problem (whether it be associated with individual or community identity) and understand how it has affected their lived-experience, they are empowered to create the life that they yearn for.
    I cannot wait to discuss this charter with my colleagues. Thank you.

  18. Frankie

    I loved the laid back nature of this talk, there was so much personality. It’s great to get a context from where the practise of Narrative Therapy was born, the historical and political motivation for this healing justice work is encouraging and powerful.

  19. Ianessa Hoare

    These charters (i so want to say charter boat? what charter boat?) take therapy up onto a different level. It even goes beyond trauma informed practice. One can say that they are trauma informed but to have charters takes it to a level where one and a community must able to abide by ethics and human rights. It is responsible for the acknowledgment of the storytelling and the feelings that come with trauma. To human rights acknowledged in a charter such as this is, is a step where one and communities can hopefully feel honoured for who they are and the resiliency that is displayed


    I believe Article 2 of the Story-Telling rights by David Denborough, “Everyone has the right for their life to be understood of what they have been though…” and Article 4 that speaks of everyone having the right to be free from having problems caused by the trauma, suffering and injustice located inside them, as if there is something wrong with them is very significant as I feel that as humans we can be very judgemental towards others. “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.” This reminds me of what David Denborough speaks of in his book “Retelling The Stories of Our Lives,” as a “Critical witness.” As a friend, family member or therapist we can cause significant damage if we agree with how the person sees themselves or go along with what the person (perpetrator) or event that affected them says. If we do this, then I believe we are de-humanising and disempowering the individual, rather then being an “Acknowledging witness,” in which we acknowledge their pain, knowing we can’t provide justice, but we can listen for the multiple stories in their story, and listen for ways they responded to and overcame the problem and what we have learnt through their story.


      I really enjoyed the video. I find the subjects fascinating. I have worked with autistic children who have been abused. It is very hard to work with these children because they have a hard time articulating their stories. These children are very easily manipulated by those around them. I find it is very hard at times to protect these children and your articles really hit the head of the nail for me. They are the perfect guide. Thank you so much for sharing

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