2006: Issue 3

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Dear Reader,

G’day and welcome to this issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. We’re really enjoyed putting this issue together.

It begins with a paper from Jodi Aman, in the USA, which provides an account of how the metaphor of ‘therapist as host’ can shape therapeutic practice. Jodi describes a number of sparkling ways in which those seeking counselling can be welcomed to the experience of therapy.

The second part of this journal focuses on ‘Considerations of place’. Mark Trudinger’s paper, ‘Maps of violence, maps of hope: Using place and maps to explore identity, gender, and violence’ invites us to consider the significance of ‘place’ in the formation of identity and therefore to the endeavour of therapeutic and community work. Manja Visschedijk provides a reflection on this same topic. This is an exciting new area for narrative practice and we look forward to seeing how practitioners take up these ideas in their own contexts!

The next two papers offer creative examples of outsider-witness practices. A paper by Debra Smith and Jeanette Gibson describes the ‘Inside/Outside’ program in which members of the community were invited into a prison to witness the stories of those incarcerated, and vice-versa. And Michelle Fraser conveys how the West Street Centre has developed a series of ‘community days’ in order to bring together feminist, therapeutic and community development aspirations. We hope by including creative examples of outsider witness work that others may be tempted to try something different and in their own ways.

Within this journal we are also very pleased to formally announce a new publishing project, on the theme of ‘Gathering stories about growing up with a parent with mental health difficulties’ This project has been initiated by Shona Russell. Within this journal you will read about the hopes and ideas that shape this project as well as a number of examples of stories. If this is an issue that means something to you, we hope you will become involved and look forward to hearing from you.

Finally, we have included here an interview with Kiera Zen, which took place during a recent trip to East Timor. With all that is occurring in East Timor at present we thought you would be interested to hear about creative, hopeful and thoughtful community work that is occurring there.

As you can tell, this is a diverse collection of papers! The submissions of articles we continue to receive illustrate that there is a vibrant community of practitioners in many different parts of the world who are engaging with narrative ideas.

It’s always a pleasure to hear from readers about reflections on particular papers, ideas for further publications, or with draft articles for consideration for publication.

Happy reading!

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


Showing all 6 results

  • Therapist as Host: Making My Guests Feel Welcome— Jodi Aman


    This paper provides an account of how the metaphor of ‘therapist as host’ can shape therapeutic practice. It describes a range of ways in which those seeking counselling can be welcomed to the experience of therapy. Particular attention is paid to welcoming children. Considerations relating to the physical aesthetics of consulting rooms, marketing, documentation and the use of websites are discussed.

  • Maps of Violence, Maps of Hope: Using Place and Maps to Explore Identity, Gender, and Violence— Mark Trudinger


    What might be some of the possibilities of exploring the relationship of ‘place’ to identity in the lives of the people with whom we work? This article explores some ideas that might inform this work, and details one practice-based example: working with young men on issues of gender and violence. Part 1 explores the relative invisibility of ‘place’ in narrative therapy and its source texts, as well as in the broader histories of thought in western culture, before looking at some possible sources of inspiration and thinking about how we might be able to explore place more fully in narrative practice. Part 2 examines the social construction of maps and their relation to identity, looks at how mapping has been used to support new directions in the lives of individuals and communities, and wonders how maps might be taken up as therapeutic documents in narrative therapy. Part 3 is an outline of a workshop the author has run with young men based on the preceding ideas, which examines the perpetration and resistance to violence in local places, and in the young men’s negotiation of those places.


    Free article:

    Reflecting on Maps of Violence, Maps of Hope— Manja Visschedijk

    This short reflection, from a feminist practitioner, on the article ‘Maps of violence, maps of hope’ by Mark Trudinger, poses further questions about the relationship between place, maps and identity. It also contemplates further implications for counselling practices that may evolve from considerations of ‘place’.


  • The Use of Outsider-witnessing in a Prison Setting— Debra Smith & Jeanette Gibson


    An innovative program involving ‘outsider witnessing’ was developed in a prison in Victoria, Australia. This program was known as the ‘Inside/Outside’ program because it involved inviting members of the community to act as outsider witnesses to the stories of those incarcerated in the prison. This paper describes this program and the impact it had on all involved.

  • Outsider-witness Practices in Developing Community with Women Who Have Experienced Child Sexual Assault— Michelle Fraser


    The West Street Centre is a community-based service for women and young people who have experienced child sexual assault. As a feminist service we are interested in addressing the issue of child sexual assault in forums beyond the therapy room and therapeutic group programs. As such, we have been committed to finding ways to strengthen the community of women who use our service, as well as the women who work to respond to this issue in the community. Narrative outsider witness practices and a number of other key feminist community development ideas have provided a foundation for the organisation of two community forum days over the last two years. This paper describes these community days and the thinking that informed them.

  • Gathering Stories About Growing Up with a Parent with Mental Health Difficulties— Shona Russell


    This project aims to gather stories that relate to the experience of children whose parents or carers have/had serious mental health difficulties. The project is seeking stories that not only richly acknowledge the difficulties faced, but also the skills and knowledge of children in these situations and the many different facets of the relationships between parents and child. It is hoped that a resource will be developed for children and for practitioners. This paper introduces this project, provides a list of questions to assist people in describing their experiences, and contains some examples of stories.

  • Independence and Local Knowledge: The Work of East Timor Insight— Kiera Zen


    This interview with Kiera Zen describes the philosophy and work of East Timor Insight. Emphasising the significance of honouring and building upon East Timorese local knowledge and skills, this organisation is proposing alterative models of research, education and community development. The interviewer took place in Dili, East Timor, in March 2006. The interviewers were Cheryl White and David Denborough.


  1. I’m Clayre Sessoms from Vancouver, BC, Canada, traditionally known as Coast Salish Territories. I acknowledge that my work takes place on the ancestral, unceded, and occupied territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Nations of the Coast Salish People whose relationship with the land is ancient, primary, and enduring. I’m an uninvited settler in what is colonially known as Vancouver. Because my place of work is on stolen land I commit to support a reconciliation, which includes reparations and the return of land. Here I study counselling psychology and art therapy, and I get to incorporate narrative therapy at my practicum placement, a site that provides free counselling services for LGBTQ2S individuals.

    These materials help me to begin to wrap my head around the complexities of narrative therapy. I especially enjoyed learning about how others have used narrative therapy in practical counselling settings.

    I’m moved by how we often tend to hear, accept, or retell the thinnest stories of our lives and the lives of others. I imagine that not valuing the richness of an individual’s diverse range of stories, perhaps, it has been much easier to cling to tired old preconceived notions about others, which can cause undue harm.

    I’m left thinking about the TEDTalk by Chimamanda Adichie about the dangers of accepting a singular story of someone else, rather than leaning in and committing to understand the wholeness of that person’s narrative.

    I look forward to continuing to learn. Thank you to The Dulwich Centre for providing this accessible forum. <3

  2. in what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?

    As a peer worker most of my work was entering into collaborations with young people. I would use curiosity to further inquire into their experience, and looking back wow these narrative practices would have been amazing to use in our youth group discussions! We would use art mostly in telling stories. Many of the young people heard voices and saw characters only they could see. They would enjoy painting these voices, externalising the character, giving it a name and talking about the story and nature of the relationship between the voice and the character. I also enjoyed illiciting these stories, as I could tell they would begin to separate themselves from the voices, allowing for guilt and shame to reduce.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?

    The one difficult way of entering into these practices was the note writing. The managerial culture of my last workplace meant it was not considered good practice to have clients sit with us to write notes. In fact most clients probably were unaware that workers did regularly make notes each time they had contact with the centre. We were a strengths based centre that thrived on person centred practice. I think there is a bit of a stereotype that note writing is quite clinical and removed from person centred practice, hence a certain avoidance of bringing up notes in front of clients.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?

    I definitely believe I could continue to use art to help young people tell their alternative stories. In mental health many workers draw thin conclusions of clients – bipolar, poor attachment, violent, with even their strengths really talked about in third person. It would be great to start drawing peoples strengths out with the use of story telling, so that clients can start to own their strengths, rather than have clinicans cherry pick these out.

  3. Thank you to Tileah for a wonderful presentation. I love hearing the word “yarn” used in this powerful way (Americans also have that term). The practice of “translating”, of shifting concepts into language that can be more usefully heard, is very powerful. As coaches we can make good use of this to help clients uncover their hidden or forgotten resources.

  4. These stories are amazing examples of what we can discover when we hold onto our “beginner’s mind” and remember that the other person (client, patient) has the information and understanding, not us. We talk a lot in leadership development about “co-creating” and I think this is a beautiful example of two very complementary roles: the person who has the story and the person who helps to explore and shape it.

  5. I like the idea of narrative – there is something about giving people the power to create a narrative, rather than simply appearing in a story told by someone else. Within the narrative metaphor, I especially enjoy the fabric metaphor – the idea of strands. These may touch each other, or not, may go well together in tone or color, or not. But again, there is some power in creating and weaving the narrative.
    In my own work with coaching and leadership development, I find that the emphasis on narrative(s) helps make things more tangible, and therefore brings them to their true scale, instead of letting them take on imaginary and unclearly described proportions.

  6. I love this. Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger. Such a powerful sentiment. Sometimes through trauma, it is hard to access the words that really encapsulate that experience – though using the written word does help us access those hard to utter parts of our memories … in those cases though perhaps the story we tell ourselves is not one that makes us feel strong in the first instance – so finding a way to tell that story in a way that focuses on the strength of surviving to tell that story is just amazing!