2002: Issue 1

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in | 0 comments

2002-no-1Dear Reader,

Well, this is very exciting isn’t it!

Welcome to the first issue of our new journal – The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work.

We have been looking forward to this moment for quite some time and now it has arrived. This new journal is our way of staying in touch with readers about the latest thinking and developments in narrative practice. In this edition we have included papers from Norway, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA. With each edition we intend to broaden the range of countries represented in these pages. We are looking forward to including perspectives from a diverse range of contexts.

As you know, this first issue focuses on ‘the question of forgiveness’. We’d have to say that putting together a journal on this topic has stretched our hearts and minds. We have tried to engage with the broader philosophical questions around the issues of forgiveness and at the same time continually relate these back to the work and concerns of counselling practitioners and community workers. Throughout this process, the one consistent theme was that wherever we turned there was yet another challenge to our thinking. It has been an intense and sometimes tumultuous journey.

Everyone working here at Dulwich Centre has been involved in reading the papers in this journal and having long discussions about the issues raised. We reckon we probably need to thank all of our families, friends and even mere acquaintances for their patience!

We think the experience of reading this journal may engage you similarly. You may not agree with every author’s viewpoint, as various papers express divergent views, and you may relate to some papers more strongly than others. Whatever the case, we are confident that you will be thinking differently about the question of forgiveness by the time you reach the final page of this publication.

Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our long-term readers for their support of our publications over the last seventeen years. When we began the Dulwich Centre Newsheet all those years ago we would never have imagined that one day we’d be writing an editorial for an international journal. It is only through the support, ideas, feedback of those who read our publications that this journal has become a possibility. So … thank you.

And to those of you who are new readers … we hope you enjoy this new journal!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White,


PS: After you’ve read this issue, we’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections and feedback. Please email us at: feedback@dulwichcentre.com.au Thanks!

Showing 1–16 of 21 results

  • Stories of sorry, forgiveness and healing: an interview with Audrey Kinnear


    Five years ago a national inquiry in Australia published its report in relation to the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families. This report found that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970. It found that most Indigenous families have been affected in one or more generations by the forcible removal of one or more children (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997, p.37). Those who were removed have come to be known in Australia as the ‘Stolen Generations’. Over the last five years there have been numerous responses to the Stolen Generations. One of these has been the establishment of the National Sorry Day Committee, of which Audrey Kinnear is the current Co-Chair. The following interview was conducted by Claire Ralfs and Suzy Stiles.

  • The church, confession, forgiveness and male sexual abuse: from an interview with Patrick O’Leary



    As a therapist and a researcher in the area of male sexual abuse, the question of forgiveness is a pertinent one, although I see this more clearly now, than I once did. In the past, due to my own experiences of growing up Catholic in a school in which those hearing young men’s confessions were also subjecting them to violence and abuse, I was not always open to the possible significance of forgiveness in other men’s lives. In therapy contexts I would have been more likely to explore other areas of the conversation rather than open space for discussion about the meaning of forgiveness to the particular person concerned. I would have more easily adopted a position of condemnation towards the perpetrator of abuse rather than see the possible relevance or helpfulness of forgiveness. I would have been more open to survivors expressing outrage than exploring notions of forgiveness.

    In recent years, however, I have come to see that for some survivors of abuse, forgiveness can be one of the few options available to them to move their lives forward. This seems particularly true for those who feel they have no option but to live in close relationship with the perpetrator of the abuse, or those for whom their entire social networks and family will continue to be in relationship with the person who was responsible for the abuse they experienced. I have come to realise that some of the people consulting me do not have the same sort of options as I do to sit in condemnation of the perpetrator of the abuse they experienced. This has been a bit of a wake-up call to me, as I have come to see how limiting it can be for a counsellor to take an absolute stand in relation to forgiveness.

  • Re-thinking deathbed forgiveness rituals— Lorraine Hedtke


    In this article, I want to question how forgiveness has been described in recent medical models of death and bereavement. I believe that these models have at times promoted unnecessary deathbed conversations in which awkward attempts to rush the process of forgiveness may serve only to further distance us from our connections with our deceased loved ones. I also want to offer some alternatives to commonly held assumptions in the discourse of forgiveness. To begin though, I will consider some of the common modernist understandings of forgiveness that influence work with people who are dying.

  • Coming to terms with the events of September 11th: an interview with Kenneth V. Hardy



    With the city in which you live still struggling to come to terms with the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11th, and with military retaliation still occurring in Afghanistan, in some ways it seems a strange time to be talking about forgiveness. Living and working as you do in New York City, perhaps we could begin by talking a little about your experience of September 11th and subsequent events …

    Not long ago I wrote a short piece about September 11th entitled ‘After dusk and before dawn’. It seems to me that we are at a critical time in this country and that actually it is very relevant to be talking about broader issues such as forgiveness, compassion, and how we come to terms with injustice, privilege and loss of life.

    Personally, I found the events of September 11th profoundly emotional and difficult to come to terms with. Living and working in New York City, we had a close-up view of the devastating events of that day. Here at the Ackerman Institute of the Family, many of us continue to be involved in working with firemen and with the police, and some of us were intimately involved in responding to the events of the day itself. We continue to meet together and talk about what is involved in this work and we remain in touch with the ongoing experience of families who have lost loved ones. Three thousand people died on that day and this means that the lives of three thousand families and countless friends and other relatives can never be the same. That is a grief of vast proportions.

  • Women’s outrage and the pressure to forgive: an interview with Jussey Verco



    Because of the ways in which forgiveness is spoken about in the broader Christian-influenced culture and also in the mental health field, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are often placed under strong pressure to forgive the person who perpetrated abuse against them. Many women report that when they have accessed a group or counselling, that there has been an emphasis on forgiving the perpetrator and that this step is seen as necessary for healing.

    As a worker, I am conscious that everyone goes through their own unique process in relation to coming to terms with the effects of sexual abuse. For a small number of women with whom I have worked, forgiveness has played an important part in their healing process and for them, the pressure to forgive may not have negative consequences. It may have been a process of their own choosing.

    However, for most women with whom I’ve worked, the pressure to forgive can be oppressive. For many women survivors, there has been no acknowledgement of guilt or even of any wrongdoing by the person who perpetrated the abuse. In many situations the women have not been believed or have been viewed as in some ways culpable for the abuse to which they were subjected.

  • Almost twenty years on … reflecting on ‘Father Daughter Rape’ — Elizabeth (Biff) Ward


    In 1984, Biff Ward wrote ‘Father Daughter Rape’ (The Women’s Press) one of the first books to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse. In this short reflection she looks back at the writing of this book and the question of forgiveness.

  • Not in our names: The work of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation: an interview with Renny Cushing



    Perhaps it would be appropriate to start with the title of your group. Can you explain the role of your group and why you are emphasising reconciliation …

    Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation is a national organisation of people who’ve lost someone to murder and who oppose the death penalty. Our opposition to the death penalty is victim-centred and victim-focussed. We are determined to refute the commonly held beliefs that all victims want the death penalty, and that we somehow need the death penalty in order to overcome our trauma and grief. We are trying to point out that actually there are thousands of people in this country who have lost somebody to murder who don’t think that a ritual killing by the state is going to accomplish anything, other than a further loss of life. We primarily oppose the death penalty, not so much because we’re concerned about what it does to killers, but because of what it does to us as victims. We believe it hinders the healing process and makes us become complicit in further killing.

  • Self-forgiveness— Sue Jackson



    Some years ago a young woman came to see me in great distress. She was pale and thin, her skin was grey and she had dark circles under her eyes. She looked very small in her oversized coat. ‘Janet’ explained that she had come under duress. Her parents, siblings and General Practitioner were all extremely worried about her and it was for this reason that she had finally picked up the phone and arranged an appointment with a therapist.

    Janet outlined her situation in the following terms:

    Two weeks previously, on a Friday night, she was travelling home from Melbourne to the country, to spend the weekend with her parents. She had had a few drinks after work with some friends, but had not stopped for dinner. Halfway home, she fell asleep at the wheel. The car drifted to the wrong side of the road, where it collided with another car travelling in the opposite direction. Both the young driver and his girlfriend in the other car were killed instantly. Janet, who only awoke at the point of impact, emerged uninjured.

  • Forgiveness and child sexual abuse: A matrix of meanings— Alan Jenkins, Maxine Joy & Rob Hall



    he concept of forgiveness, along with notions of apology and atonement for wrongs, can constitute highly significant preoccupations for individuals and communities whose lives have been affected by abuse. People who have been abused, those who have acted abusively and members of their families and broader communities may all have concerns and hopes about forgiveness and atonement. In the aftermath of sexual abuse, concerns about forgiveness may range from, ‘I’ll never forgive’ to ‘Why can’t I forgive?’ and these concerns may be met with preoccupations like, ‘I’ve said I’m sorry, surely it’s time for her to forgive me’ and ‘You must learn to forgive and forget’.

  • The power in remembering— Vanessa Jackson



    Two years ago, I was formally invited on a journey: to work on an oral history project to recover African American psychiatric history. At the time of this was not conscious of the fact that I had been preparing for this journey for the last 20 years. In hindsight, I can now see that I started packing for this voyage on one of my first visits to see my sister in a state psychiatric hospital.

    During that visit I recall hearing the chilling screams of a patient – screams that were virtually ignored by others in the ward, patients and staff alike. I remember looking past the nurses’ desk into a small room where a young white man was tied to a cot. He was the source of the screams and a nurse, noticing my concern, commented that he was out of control and just screaming for attention. What was clear to me, and probably even clearer to the young man, was that attention was the last thing he was going to receive in that place.

  • Forgiveness linked to justice: an interview with Charles Waldegrave



    Could we begin by considering your own relationship with the question of forgiveness? Has your thinking around the issue of forgiveness remained constant, or has it changed over time?

    Over the years, there has been considerable debate at The Family Centre about the issue of forgiveness. Between the different cultural and gender groupings in our workplace we have had many discussions about forgiveness and its place in our work and lives. In the past I would speak positively about the concept of forgiveness. I do not consider Christianity as in any way superior to other faiths. It does happen however to be the religion of my culture. Some things we do badly, like the ownership of truth. Some things I think we do well, and the concept of forgiveness is a good example of this.

    And yet, when I used to speak about my views on the significance and importance of forgiveness, this frequently led to considerable debate. It has been through these debates and conversations that I have come to see more clearly the particular implications that it can have when I as a white man speak on matters of forgiveness. When issues of forgiveness are being discussed, it makes a considerable difference who is speaking. When Maori or Pacific women talk about the hazards and possibilities of forgiveness, it evokes very different images than when white men such as myself have the same conversation. Not only have I been alerted to this, but when in the past I have spoken about forgiveness, the Maori and Pacific people with whom I work have reminded me that in some circumstances, if you forgive quickly, you don’t allow space for justice to be done.

  • Ubuntu: Caring for people and community in South Africa— Elmarie Kotzé et al.



    Since the first hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in April 1996, South Africans over the next two years heard the revelations about the nation’s traumatic past. The TRC received 20,000 statements from victims, 2,000 of these were heard in public hearings (Krog 1998, p.vii). Through the TRC we came face-to-face with this country’s volatile history and began to grasp an understanding of the human cost of apartheid.

    Different options were available regarding amnesty for perpetrators who testified before the TRC. Negotiators decided against the sort of trials held at Nuremberg after WWII, and they also decided against offering a blanket amnesty. A third way, granting individuals amnesty in exchange for full disclosure of the crimes for which amnesty was sought, was a preferred way of dealing with perpetrators. This way of conditional amnesty has often been described within a framework of Christian forgiveness, but it was also consistent with ubuntu, an African worldview (Tutu 1999, p.34). In this paper, we will be describing the significance of ubuntu in our work in South Africa.

  • Enabling forgiveness and reconciliation in family therapy— Karl Tomm


    Interpersonal conflicts are almost inevitable within families. The closeness and intensity of family relationships along with differences among family members in knowledge, desires, values, abilities, etc., account for much of this turmoil. Family members are often deeply hurt in the course of their conflicts and sometimes there is a significant breach of trust. Occasionally a family member will consider a certain offence unforgivable and will not seek reconciliation. Usually, however, family members try to recover a sense of personal and relationship wellbeing by endeavoring to forgive and reconcile. This can be a long and arduous process. Therapists are often consulted to facilitate such healing. My purpose in writing this paper is to share my understanding of some of the complexities involved.2 The perspective that I adopt is a social constructionist or ‘bringforthist’ stance. I assume that through caring conversation, it is possible to bring forth preferred ways of thinking and interacting that can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.

  • Seeking safety and acknowledgement: women who have experienced domestic violence— WOWSafe


    This piece was created from an interview (conducted by Dulwich Centre Publications’ staff writer, David Denborough) with WOWSafe – Women of the West for Safe Families, which is an organisation of women in Adelaide, South Australia, who have personally survived men’s violence in the home and now campaign in order to prevent it in the lives of others.

  • Prisons and the question of forgiveness— David Denborough



    At present, prisons are upheld as our society’s response to those who have done the most harm to others. Those who have killed, hurt, assaulted, raped are supposed to be imprisoned. Also imprisoned are those who have committed property offences – most of which are directly related to poverty and the use of certain drugs which are deemed illegal.

    To sincerely think about prisons involves trying to come to terms with the profound class and race-based injustices that our legal system creates and maintains. It is also to face the question of what to do with those whose acts seriously harm others, those who terrorise, assault and kill. During my years of working within prisons, I met with many men who had committed what I consider to be horrific crimes – callous, violent, cruel acts. I also met many lovely men brutalised by generational poverty, racism and/or ill-treatment.

  • On forgiving the church, families, science and those who remain silent— Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad



    Some years ago I was invited with my wife and fellow sexologist Elsa Almaas to view the movie ‘The Priest’ and then to go up on the stage to comment on it. The movie described a homosexual Catholic priest, the clerical judgements he was subject to, and the resulting personal torments. Most of the audience remained in the movie theatre to listen and to take part in the discussion. On the podium, in addition to the two of us, were a Catholic priest and a Lutheran priest.

    Both priests commended the movie. The Catholic then went on to make some general remarks on his belief that the discussion on Christian Theology and homosexuality had to develop amongst theologians themselves, and therefore public conversations, such as the one we were engaged in, could only offer limited potential for meaningful change.


  1. I appreciated that there was a sequential process provided in this lesson. The power point presentation along with Mark Hayward providing guidance through the steps helps create a vision of what narrative therapy looks like in action. I work in the helping field and often find that clients come in for counselling having already been given a diagnosis of some kind. So often when I ask about problems, I get answers along the lines of “well I have depression” or “people saying I’m paranoid”. Having a series of questions that assist in externalizing with descriptions that is experience near is valuable. The descriptions that are evoked in the power point, wolf monster or black depths, remind me of creative therapies. A character can be created, drawn or written that symbolize the problem.

    I also agree with a response outlined below regarding the usefulness of this map in addictions work. The healthy distancing from the behaviour or clinical state of “addiction” could be incredibly useful. I have also seen this in my practice where people who use substances refer to their problem as “addiction” or identity as “addict”. This can be a very strong narrative that is a thin description, very totalizing and medical.

  2. Hello everyone
    My name is Justin and I reside and work in so called British Columbia. Specifically I work on the unceded territories of the Lekwungen and WSANEC people.
    Going through this lesson, I am reminded of the work of Vikki Reynolds. She is a clinical counsellor working and living in Vancouver, BC (I am sure many people reading and contributing here are familiar!)
    In her article ‘“Leaning In” as Imperfect Allies in Community Work” she talks about doing community work informed by justice-doing and decolonizing work. She describes this work as “fluid and groundless”, changing and within relation to the context and intersecting identities and histories.
    This practice seems to connect well with narrative therapies collaboration, interconnection and de-centered practice.

    I would like to comment on how useful it is to hear about the specific examples of collaboration and consent that are provided. Amanda Worrall writing out what was discussed in her meetings with June, (the therapeutic letter) seems like such a great practice. It is in the spirit of collaboration reflecting together in this manner.

    Vikki Reynolds: “Leaning In” as Imperfect Allies in Community Work:

  3. Listening to Tileah I was provoked to contemplate my own use of language when working with clients. I enjoy the narrative model of practice and I am aware that for some there is definitely stigma attached to the process of counselling or therapy. I have only had one experience of working with an Indigenous person as a client and I will be sure to look at my use of language. I like the idea of it just being a yarn, it takes the pressure and onus off of the client to do something.

  4. Hello:

    This is Andrea from Toronto.

    I found particularly helpful the discussion in the FAQ around the use of metaphors of conflict and combat. I expect to be working in healthcare settings with critically ill patients and their loved ones (mostly children and parents), and I anticipate hearing them use these kinds of combative metaphors during our conversations. I also anticipate meeting many people who are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted from “fighting” these problems. I appreciated the comments in the FAQ about combative metaphors, and the suggestions around exploring other kinds of metaphors which may be less conflict-laden and draining on their emotional resources. Thanks again for making this material available!

  5. I have started to use collaboration with clients when I am asked to write a report. I ask clients what they see as the areas of change and challenge of which they want others to be aware. I also at times share my report with the client first to be sure it accurately reflects their experience. In this way they are both acknowledging their ongoing journey and being acknowledged for the work they have done.

  6. Mike here, in London. I too was interested in “We were unwittingly adjusting people to poverty or other forms of injustice by addressing their symptoms, without affecting broader social and structural change.” It’s a really difficult question. I was involved for about 10 years in working with people suffering from homelessness. Sue Mann’s story really rang true for me. One thing I was involved in was a choir for marginalised people, literally helping them find their voices. That, I felt, was useful, and collaborative. But I have always been suspicious of things like distributing left-over sandwiches to people sleeping rough on the street, as if that made it OK for them to be there as long as we give them some stale sandwiches. Or giving them tents or sleeping bags. What message does it send? Even though it may be well-meaning.

  7. Hi, I’m Mike. I work as a couples counsellor in London, England. My main training was 50% psychodynamic and 50% systemic. Narrative work was touched on briefly, for one module, and I am looking forward to learning more. Couples certainly do bring stories, often rather thin stories. “My partner is selfish.” Or “My partner had an affair”. Full stop. That’s all there is to know. Even in happy couples, people seem to get shaped into rather thin roles: this partner is the one who’s good with people, that partner is the one who’s good with money, this one cooks, that one drives. If the relationship ends, they may discover, actually *I* also can drive, cook, manage my money, make friends, I am a complete person.

  8. I think it will be an important part of my practice to investigate with clients which elements of our systems (social, cultural, political, economic) that are contributing to or mitigating their problems and suffering. I was particularly struck by the following sentence from the Just Therapy article: “We were unwittingly adjusting people to poverty or other forms of injustice by addressing their symptoms, without affecting broader social and structural change.” I think it is incumbent upon those of us in helping professions to work with the people we are helping to begin addressing the systemic issues that are contributing to (or creating) their problems. Otherwise, we may fall into this trap of “adjusting people to injustice.”

  9. Hello! My name is Andrea and I am a Masters student in a spiritual care program located in Toronto.

    After reviewing this chapter, I’m reflecting upon the question that was raised: “how do we respond to grief when that grief has been caused by injustice?” and thinking about it in the context of working with seriously ill children and their families in a hospital/hospice setting. Patients and families in that setting also face grief that has been caused by injustice (in the form of incurable illness), and I see how the narrative metaphor can be used to help those families begin to reclaim their own lives in the face of tremendous loss caused by uncontrollable circumstances. I can see how the Articles of the Narrative Therapy Charter of Story-Telling Rights would be tremendously helpful when working with patients and families as a framework for telling and receiving their stories about their lives and their problems.

    For me, the material in this chapter also raises the question of how we can help to facilitate healing in a world where systems are seemingly becoming more unjust and creating deep suffering. My initial thought is that we continue to listen to each other’s stories with deep compassion, and the teachings of this course will help to provide us with new ideas and skills on how to do this.

  10. Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk was incredible. The one line where she said “a single story creates a stereotype. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete”. This blew my mind. I am ashamed to have ever participated in the single story belief of anyone let alone whole cultures, communities and countries , continents and so on. I know that moving forward I will endeavour to hear more stories and to encourage others to tell their story. I am about to run a photovoice narrative project to do just this, give a whole community the opportunity to change their stereotype.

  11. “Narrative therapy doesn’t believe in a ‘whole self’ which needs to be integrated but rather that our identities are made up of many stories, and that these stories are constantly changing.”

    I like this, I find it very compatible with my beliefs as a Buddhist. In Buddhism, as I understand it, mistaken beliefs about a solid, fixed “self” are the source of our suffering.

    I work with couples using EFT for couples, and in that approach, there is a big emphasis on externalising the problem as “the cycle that you get trapped in”, and encouraging couples to come up with their own name for it.

  12. Thank you for this. I am a counsellor, and trying to make as much as possible of my notes “in quotes”, that is, writing down things that the clients said. And not my own opinions.

  13. 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?


    Cal Albright
    Kermode Friendship Center
    Terrace, BC

    • 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.


  14. Thank you for this overview of Narrative Therapy. I am returning to practice after some time away, and these reminders are timely and appreciated.

  15. 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


    • 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.