2004: Issue 1

Posted by on Dec 21, 2016 in | 0 comments

Guest Editorial by Angela Tsun On-kee

Dear Reader,

Welcome to this special issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work which focuses on stories from Hong Kong. We have a vibrant community of narrative practitioners here and it is a great pleasure to be able to share with you some of the stories of our work and our lives.

There are two key themes that are explored in the following pages. Firstly, the history of Hong Kong and how it shapes our identities as Chinese people living and working here. And secondly, how we are engaging with narrative ideas in our social work and counselling practice. We hope that both themes will be of interest to you.

Hong Kong history is complex. The effects of British colonisation on the people of Hong Kong have been significant. The valuing of all things English, including language and culture, over all things Chinese has understandably had long-term consequences. But we have also resisted in our own ways and have created a vibrant culture of which we are proud. Hong Kong is a most wonderful place to live.

Some aspects of our history are not so wonderful. Many Hong Kong citizens fled China at different times in recent history and in doing so left behind the people and the country that they loved. I recall my parents always wanting to locate and contact our relatives in mainland China since I was small. We felt sorrowful to discover that my paternal grandparents and maternal grandfather had died before we could reconnect. This is a common story.

The relationship between the people of Hong Kong and mainland China is complex. In the past century we have gone through stages of uncertainty, anxiety, distancing, scorn, and even disappointment toward China. But even in the most difficult of times there has been an alternative story. For instance, at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, many Hong Kong people were frightened and our view of the Chinese Government was at its lowest ebb. Simultaneously, however, our support for the student movement indicated that China is our home and our love for it. The huge donations each year that Hong Kong people make to assist in re-establishing family life in China after famines and floods is another indication.

We are proud to be Chinese people. We are also Hong Kong people and this gives us a unique perspective and unique opportunities. As China continues to develop politically and economically, and as we in Hong Kong continue to unravel the legacies of British colonisation, I am very hopeful as to what the future holds.

On another note, we are excited about the community of narrative practitioners that is growing here in Hong Kong. We are engaging with narrative therapy ideas and finding ways to practice these in our own context and in our own ways. Many of the papers in this collection describe this process by illustrating group work with young women dealing with mental health issues; consultations with people in relation to drug use and addiction; group work in relation to overcoming the effects of child-sexual abuse; and consultations with children and young people. Many of these papers were created from interviews conducted by Dulwich Centre Publications’ staff writer, and we hope they will be of interest to you. The second half of this journal features a practice-based paper by Michael White entitled ‘Working with people who are suffering the consequences of multiple trauma: a narrative perspective’. This is the written version of a presentation that Michael made in Ramallah, Palestine, in October 2003.

Finally, we also have some news to share … in July 2005 Hong Kong will be the venue for the 7th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference! This will be co-hosted by the Social Work Department of the Baptist University of Hong Kong (where I work) and Dulwich Centre Publications. Plans are already well underway and we hope to see you there! I would like very much to invite you to visit us in Hong Kong for this conference so that you can see for yourself the diverse, vibrant Chinese culture that we live within and that we are constantly creating.

We are awaiting your arrival!

Warm regards,

Angela Tsun On-kee, on behalf of Dulwich Centre Publications.


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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. “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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.


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

  13. 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.