2003: Issue 3

Dear Reader,

Welcome to another issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work.

The first half of this journal focuses on an issue dear to our hearts – mental health. The Hearing Voices Network offered a series of papers within a keynote address at the 5th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference in Liverpool, UK in July. We have received many requests for written copies of their moving presentations and are delighted to be publishing these here. The work of the Hearing Voices Network is offering alternative ways of understanding and responding to the experiences of hearing voices and seeing visions. Their work is inspiring many people both in the UK and further afield.

Also within this mental health section is a write-up of a recent community gathering, which took place in Canberra, Australia, and documents the skills and knowledges of those living with mental health issues. Entitled ‘These are not ordinary lives’, this paper richly describes the perspectives, ideas and stories which give meaning to lives lived out of the ordinary. The skills and knowledges that are illustrated here are heartfelt and hard-won. They are also, we believe, of vital relevance to health professionals working in the realm of mental health.

The second half of the journal changes tack. It includes a sparkling article by Judith Milner entitled ‘Narrative groupwork with young women – and their mobile phones’, and a short practice-based paper by Mike Boucher on the rarely discussed topic of ‘Exploring the meaning of tattoos’.

The final piece in this journal is another in the popular series of questions and answers compiled by Maggie Carey and Shona Russell. This rigorous paper contains thorough examples of therapeutic consultations and detailed descriptions of the thinking that informs ‘re-authoring conversations’, one of the key practices of narrative therapy.

This issue, we believe, contains a collection of moving and varied papers that are of direct relevance to therapists, counsellors and community workers. We hope you find them relevant, engaging and in some way stretching of your thinking and practice.

We’d love to hear your reflections!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White,
David Denborough,
Jane Hales,
Dulwich Centre Publications.


  • Introducing the Work of the Hearing Voices Network



    This collection includes six articles about the work of the Hearing Voices Network:

    Introducing the Work of the Hearing Voices Network— David Denborough

    An introduction by David Denborough

    The Use of Humour and Other Coping Strategies— Jon Williams

    Everyone’s experience of hearing voices is different. In this paper Jon Williams describes the ways in which he has come to live with the voices he hears and how humour plays a vital part. This paper also describes a number of creative coping strategies as well as discussing the influential work of the Hearing Voices Network.

    Glimpses of Peace— Sharon De Valda

    Trauma can be the main trigger or cause of voice-hearing in many people. In this paper, Sharon de Valda evocatively conveys how racism and sexism shape her experience of hearing voices and how she has in turn used her own experiences to assist other voice-hearers.

    From Paranoid Schizophrenia to Hearing Voices - and Other Class Distinctions— Mickey De Valda

    While not commonly discussed, class relations have a significant influence in relation to people’s experiences of mental health and hearing voices in particular. In this paper, Mickey de Valda describes how experiences of class shape his experience and how this has influenced his work with the Hearing Voices Network.

    Partnership— Julie Downs

    In this paper, Julie Downs (Co-ordinator of the National Office of the Hearing Voices Network) discusses the importance of thoughtful partnerships between those who hear voices and those who do not. Both the hazards and possibilities of these partnerships are considered, particularly in relation to matters of power, politics and control.

    Altering the Balance of Power: Working with Voices— Peter Bullimore

    Through sharing stories of therapeutic work, this paper describes how issues of abuse and power are vital considerations when working with voice-hearers. Not only is voice-hearing often the result of abuse, but voice-hearing itself can be an experience of abuse. Peter Bullimore describes how he is interested in ensuring that abusive voices are challenged and their influence reduced, and how positive voices can be acknowledged and cherished. The paper also tells stories of a recently established group for people experiencing ‘paranoia’ that is having surprising success, and identifies significant factors that influence the process of recovery. The author also shares some of his own experiences of psychosis and how these influence his work in this area.


  • These are not Ordinary Lives. The Report of a Mental Health Community Gathering


    This paper contains the stories, skills and knowledges that were described during a two-day gathering for ‘consumers’ of mental health services in Canberra, Australia. This gathering was preceded by detailed consultations that were shaped by narrative therapy ideas and the gathering itself was organised and structured around a series of definitional ceremonies. This led to the rich description of participants’ unique knowledges of illness and healing; their appreciation of healing contexts; their connections with each other; their connections with families, friends and pets, and their connections with service providers. Space was also created for the articulation of the skills and knowledges associated with embracing different hopes, values and ways of living. This paper records the stories that were told on the gathering in the hope that these will be of assistance to others.

  • Narrative Groupwork with Young Women – and Their Mobile Phones— Judith Milner


    This paper describes part of a narrative project with a small group of fourteen/fifteenyear-old young women attending a pupil referral unit following their exclusion from mainstream schooling. Narrative therapy promotes the idea of engaging with the experiences and meaning of people in whichever way or shape the expression of this meaning occurs. In this instance it involved a deliberate decision on the part of the therapist to include group members’ conversations on their mobile phones. These conversations had the effect of recruiting a wider audience, facilitating the expression and enactment of alternative ways of being, and developing a support network.

  • Exploring the Meaning of Tattoos— Mike Boucher


    In this short paper the author describes some of the multiple meanings that tattoos can hold for people, including ‘markings of transitions’, ‘rejecting normalising judgements’ and ‘remembering important learnings’. Through describing the stories of one woman’s tattoos and their meanings, this paper invites therapists to consider the significance that tattoos hold in some people’s lives and ways of taking this into account in the therapy room.

  • Re-authoring: Some Answers to Commonly Asked Questions— compiled by Maggie Carey & Shona Russell


    The understanding that our lives are shaped by the stories that we create about them underpins all narrative practice. This practice-based paper, which was created through collaborative processes involving narrative practitioners in a number of different countries, seeks to answer some commonly asked questions about re-authoring conversations. Practical examples are offered throughout, as are explanations of the thinking that informs re-authoring conversations.

  • Considering Issues of Domestic Violence and Abuse in Palliative Care and Bereavement Situations— Judy Wright


    Through relaying the stories of older women, this short paper invites readers to consider the importance of listening for and responding to experiences of domestic violence and abuse in palliative care settings. Whether older women are themselves nearing their deaths, or they are caring for male partners who are in the process of dying, issues of violence and abuse are often present and require careful response.