Narrative Walks by Chris Darmody

Posted by on Feb 1, 2019 in Friday Afternoon Videos | 27 comments

Narrative Walks by Chris Darmody

Narrative Walks is a hope-based, depathologising outdoor program that was developed to engage with populations who may not be drawn to conventional methods of therapy. This structured day program encourages participants to explore 15 narrative therapy questions, and to engage in a number of other activities during a 20 kilometre walk through the bush. The program invites different perspectives on problem stories, and offers walking as a narrative metaphor. In this video Chris outlines his own hopes for the future development of Narrative Walks as a program transferable to many people and lands.

 

 

Chris Darmody is a Father, Husband, Psychologist, Son, Dreamer and a number of other things. He has spent a large part of the past fifteen years working with young people and currently works in private practice in Perth, Western Australia. Chris is the founder of Embark, a service which develops and runs a number of therapeutic programs held outdoors in an attempt to address issues of power, connect people to their environments and engage with populations which may not engage with indoor therapy. Chris also helps run a Narratively Informed Non-For-Profit organisation which places a large focus on building upon skills young people already have to support their communities.

Published on 25 January 2019. 

 

Some international responses:

“Hello Chris,
I just watched your video clip about the Nature Walks and enjoyed hearing about the wonderful approach!  I teach a class in Solution Focused and Narrative approaches for the Family Therapy Training Institute in Milwaukee, WI (USA). I will for sure share the link with my students and I would welcome any other resources you might have to offer.
Thanks again for your work!

Phyllis Lardinois”

 

“Hi Chris,

I hope this email finds you well. I just watched your video on the narrative therapy page, I imagine you’ve been flooded with emails since you put it up! I’m an Australian therapist living and working in Santiago Chile. I also love hiking. I  run a community hiking group that has (on the surface of it) nothing to do with therapy but I often find that the hikes provide spaces of connection and triumph, especially as many of the people I take up are migrants from all over the world, new to Chile and working hard to build new lives. In Santiago we’re surrounded by the Andes mountains, and there is something so very therapeutic about struggling up a mountain and forging back down it triumphant and exhausted, with new friends and a new outlook on life (literally, as the view on the way down always looks completely different to the way up!).

Your video made me think of a patient of mine who struggles to sit still in sessions because of back pain and who likes to keep active. I saw that you were very generously sharing your materials with therapists all over the world and thought I’d stick my hand up too. It’s such a fantastic idea. I had a few questions too- how big are the groups you take? Do all the facilitators have training in narrative therapy? 

Best, Kitty”

 

“Hei Chris Darmody,

Thank you for sharing your work and idea (this narrative walks -program).  Here in Finland our oudoor-life is relatively huge part of our well-being. I have kind of artwork (I’m an artist but also social worker and art therapist) called “Storypal – may I walk with you?”. Now I’m collecting information and working methods for that and also for my art therapy group. Strengthening the natural relationship is also part of helping with environmental anxiety and grief caused by climate change and the ecological crisis. Now I have a weekly group and mostly it’s art therapy but I think maybe later in spring I want to take the group out to the nature and have a narrative walk. I’m interested of materials you use and what is the group structure, many members and how often do you meet?

Thank you and Warm regards from snowy Helsinki, Finland.”

27 Comments

  1. hello

    I the ED of a Friendship Center in Terrace, BC where were mostly target the indigenous population in our city of 12,000. I found your video interesting and something that we may want to try. Havee you been able to to do any follow ups studies to gage the long term effect of your program?

    Regards

    Cal Albright
    ED
    Kermode Friendship Center
    http://www.keremodefriendship.ca
    Terrace, BC
    Canada

    • Hi Cal, thanks for the interest. At this point the only followup has been through conversations with with people who return to volunteer on additional walks or engage with our other programs.

      However, a group of fourth year medical students at a local university have offered to run a pre and post measured study / report in 2020 as part of their studies which should be interesting.

      Let me know if you would like more information.

      CD

  2. Hi Chris

    I really enjoyed watching your video about Narrative Walks. My project is based in Blaenau Gwent, in South Wales, Uk. I’m wondering whether I might use such an approach in my work with our Youth Service, who support young people between the ages of 11 and 25. Have you any thoughts on this? Are there any resources available, either free or to purchase?

    Best wishes

    Paul

    • Hi Paul, m

      Much of my early attempts of the program were with the 15-20 year old age bracket and I found it worked really well. When I recently had an opportunity to run the program again with this age bracket – I extended the finish time so that could spend more time at the stop points and have a fire at the last resting place to talk about our intentions after the walk. This meant that we used head torches for the 2km which added a bit of a sense of theatre to the day. It was pretty cool.

      If you email me on hello@embarkpsych.com I can send you the manual. Or ask any other questions via this page so others might share in the answers.

      CD

  3. Hey Chris. I notice you will be presenting at the AABAT Forum in August. I really look forward to meeting you there. Haven’t seen an email from you yet!

    • Hi Lucy – sorry I’ve been connecting with a lot of different people – I may have missed responding to you. I’ll get onto that this week. And yes I’ll be in Queensland for the conference to present and will look forward to catching up in person. Speak soon. CD

  4. Hi Chris,

    It was a real pleasure to walk the journey that you take the young people on through the narrative walk.

    I love my work as a counsellor and being outdoors equally and am excited by the idea of bringing this concept and experience to women recovering from family violence.

    I think from memory you are presenting at the AABAT Forum “Turning Over a New Leaf” as am I and I hope to have the opportunity to hear more of the walk process then.

    cheers

    • Thanks Angele. Id be happy to connect and hear how you might adapt this program or other outdoor programs to suit the women you work with. Email me or find me at the conference if you like, I’ll be there for the full three days. CD

  5. Hi Chris
    I love the idea of your narrative walk program. I work in community mental health in Ireland and unfortunately narrative practice has not really taken hold in the service. I was thinking of maybe trying something similar as we have some amazing scenic walks. Unfortunately weather is not quite Perth but hopefully that won’t put us off. If possible could you send me some of the materials/workbooks you use in the program. I’ve been really inspired by your talk on narrative walking. Many thanks. Paul

    • Thankyou Paul – Sounds amazing – dont let the weather put you off, wet weather and storms brings all kinds of opportunities for the narrative metaphor and reflective thinking I have found. Ill send you over the resources I have and would love to here how it goes. Chris

  6. Hi Chris,
    I am intrigued and inspired by your Narrative Walk program. I live in the US and recently graduated with my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. In the past, I have worked in ministry, and in that role, I often noticed how creating opportunities for connecting one’s mind, body, and spirit with the natural world builds hope and opens one’s mind to considering new perspectives in overcoming challenges. I love this program you have created and was wondering if you would share your manual /forms with me, as I am interested including a walk like this as part of the curriculum for a group for adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, and/or self-esteem issues.

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful program through your video!

    • Hi Barb, you put the intentions of the program into such wonderful words. I’ll send over the Hosts Manual. You can also read about the program in the latest International Journal of Narrative Therapy and some examples of trials I ran initially in developing the program.

      I have had so many people contact me and discuss the different ways and populations that they may use the program with. Please keep me informed as to how you go. CD

  7. Hi Chris,
    Your Narrative Walks program is inspiring to learn about. I’d be interested in trying it out at the medical clinic that I practice out of. Do you have guidelines as to how many people can participate in a walk, how many facilitators are required, and what kind of screening you do?
    Thanks for all your work,

    Mike

    • Hi Mike, the groups that I tend to work with are around 8-15 people in size. For every 5 people I add an extra facilitator (I call them hosts) e.g 10 – 2 facilitators, 15 – 3 etc. I’ve found that this works well for the outsider witnessing groups and exercises in separating the participants up into groups of around 5. It also helps manage risk and time. The extra hosts are not necessarily mental health workers and are often people that have completed a Narrative Walk themselves in the past.

      Groups have got bigger since I opened the criteria up and I have found the conversations diverse and rich when mixed gender and age.

      I ask participants to complete a consent and information form with questions around any diagnosis or physical injuries that could impact the walk. As this is non-pathologising (and in many cases de-pathologising) program, exclusion criteria is often only around acute symptoms reported by the participant and can be discussed before the walk. I do highlight the importance of it being a self reflective process and responsible sharing through the Welcome Letter and before the walk begins.

      Thanks for your interest. Feel free to ask me any more questions. CD

      • Hi Chris,

        Thanks for the details, I really appreciate the information (Would I be able to get a copy of your manual and consent forms for reference?). One other question I have is do people do the walk more than once or is it a one time experience? And is it sometimes offered while somebody is participating in therapy?

        Thanks again,

        Mike

        • Hi again Mike. Ill send my forms over to you.

          Some people do the walk a number of times and even work on the same problem. Even though the process is the same each time, people report different experiences depending on the other people in the group, they’re mood, the weather ect. Also some people may come back if their problem starts to sneak back into their life. It can also help the process if there are people that have experienced the walk before.

          Something that I have found is that people sometimes have wanted to return, not necessarily for the therapeutic aspects of the walk but for the sense community. And whist that’s is great its not really what the walk is designed for. When this is the case I have gently helped them find social walking groups.

  8. Hi Chris! I’m Anne-Sophie from France. Your outdoor program means so much to me: it combines the need for human beings to walk and need to make sense, at the same point. Brilliant! I am currently handling a similar program around Travelling.
    A journey/travel is, to my point of view, an authentic manufacture of alternative stories and exceptions, without the social or job pressure. It is a small life too with a beginning, middle and end, and a lot of emotions and sensations. Hope our paths meet one day. Thank you for sharing: amazing job! Anne-Sophie.

    • Thankyou so much Anne-Sophie. Ive been overwhelmed by the responses and by the number of people that are also working in this way. I have completed this program as a 20km walk and a shorter 10km a number of times and find that the 20km walk allows much more space and a sense of journeying and therefore has been more sort after. Later this year Ive organised a 3 day overnight hike on the Bibbulmun Track with a Narrative Walk as one day of the program and am interested in what does for the participants. Happy Travelling CD

      • Hi again Chris, Thanks a lot for your answer and enthusiasm. Could you share with me your manual and workbook for reference? Looking forward to hearing from you. Best regards, Anne-Sophie.

  9. Hi Chris, I am really interested in connecting with you and exploring ideas around nature connection and narrative therapy. I am a Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide as well as a practitioner using narrative practices in groupwork and counselling. Given the enormous amount of research showing the benefits of nature for health and wellbeing, I am really interested in different ways of integrating nature and narrative practices. I would love to read more about your program.

    • Hi Lucy, thank you. I think there is something about to be published on the program in the International Journal of Narrative which outlines the process of developing of the program. I will send you my email so we can continue the conversation. I’d enjoy hearing more about your work also and anyone using therapy in an outdoor setting. CD

  10. Hi Chris,

    My name is Alberto, I’m a student studying the masters of Narrative therapy at Melbourne Uni and a counsellor in Kensington.
    I viewed your video on Friday Afternoons at the Dulwich and was really taken aback at the brilliant work you and your colleagues are doing. I myself have been wanting to utilise nature in some group work I am involved in here in Melbourne particularly with an older mens group who all experience chronic pain/ mobility issues and isolation. At the moment we also have a social work student with us who is interested in Wilderness Therapy and I was wondering if you could share some of the resources you used on your walks with us so that we could potentially get something sorted here.

    We’ll keep you in the loop if anything does progress,

    Thanks again for the brilliant sharing of ideas!

    • Hi Alberto, Thank you for your comments. I developed Narrative Walks in the hope that people would adapted it to suit all kinds populations. It excites me to see people thinking about this too. Your work sounds very interesting and I would really enjoy hearing about how you go about this. I will send you across the manual and workbook I use currently. Thankyou CD

  11. This looks amazing and really valuable. Is there any upcoming training or workshops that would run through how to faciliate something like this?

    • Not at this point Kate. I would love to in the future if interest grows. The best I can do at the moment is invite you to the next Narrative Walks program we are doing in Perth to experience for yourself. I will send you the details. Thankyou CD

  12. How beautiful! Thank you for sharing this program, Chris. I wish I could implement an outdoor program like this where I live but I do see great potential in tweaking these ideas to create an indoor, weekly group that is much different from your standard psycho-ed group about anxiety, depression, etc. We are working towards creating some therapy groups in the community centre I work at and this lovely program has gotten my narrative juices flowing. Thank you again–from Toronto : )
    Wendy

    • Thank you Wendy. Feel free to contact me at hello@embarkpsych.com and I can send you over the materials I use. I would love to hear about how your program goes. CD

Leave a Reply

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

0