2007: Issue 2

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2007-no-2Dear Reader,

This special issue contains papers related to the theme ‘Experience Consultants’, which is a term we only recently came across during preparations for the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference which is to be held in Norway this year. Each paper in the first section of this journal has been written by those with insider knowledge of particularly complex experiences. Their perspectives and ideas offer challenges to the field.

Ellen Walnum, who is the author of the lead paper in this issue, is a Norwegian woman with the experience of growing up with a mother who had psychiatric difficulties. She has also had the experience of a mental health crisis. Determined to put these experiences to work for the benefit of others, Ellen is now employed as an Experience Consultant working with professionals, with mothers who have psychiatric difficulties and with their children. Her paper describes some of the key skills involved in the work of Experience Consultants. It also offers a vision for re-thinking mental health services as partnerships built on a combination of ‘professional knowledge’ and ‘experience knowledge’.

The second paper, by Turid Foss, describes the experience of a therapist who experienced psychosis and was hospitalised as a result. Turid’s experiences of her time on the ward have led to her questioning many taken-for-granted practices. This paper is a powerful invitation to all mental health practitioners to think differently about how we respond to those in crisis, to acknowledge the support and care offered between ‘patients’ within psychiatric wards, and to question and dismantle the artificial separation between ‘professionals’ and ‘those who experience mental health difficulties’. It’s also an invitation to health professionals who have experienced psychiatric crises to speak out about these and the learnings which they have brought.

The third paper, by Odd Volden, invites the reader to reconceptualise mental health crises as cultural experiences, to move mental health issues back into the realm of culture and community and in doing so to strengthen some of the valued traditions of our respective cultures. This is a powerful invitation with significant implications.

The journal then changes tack with two papers by authors who have experiences within complex realms of culture and belonging. Sissel Wilmena Daabous conveys ‘Stories of pride and survival: From the Romany people’ and provides ideas for anyone trying to develop ways of working that are culturally appropriate to their own people. And Leonie Simmons, who was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family relates stories of her journey back to the place of her birth. In the process, she deconstructs taken-for-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home.

A further paper generated from personal and collective experience is by Mary Heath and is titled ‘Up the steep side of the queer learning curve: Some things I’ve learned about sex, gender and sexuality’. It’s likely that readers will never think of sexual or gender identities in quite the same way after reading this piece.

To complete this issue, we have included two papers on the theme of re-thinking formal clinical paperwork and assessment. William Madsen offers a range of ideas and suggestions as to ways of working within traditional structures that support a collaborative clinical practice. While Mim Weber explores constraints, dilemmas and opportunities in relation to ways in which narrative ideas can inform assessment processes in relation to ‘eating disorders’.

This is a journal issue which we hope you will enjoy and also one which we hope will challenge and provoke your thinking and practice.

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


 

Showing all 8 results

  • Sharing Stories: The Work of an Experience Consultant— Ellen Walnum

    $9.90

    This paper introduces the concept of Experience Consultant. Ellen Walnum is a Norwegian woman with the experience of growing up with a mother who had psychiatric difficulties. She has also had the experience of a mental health crisis. Determined to put these experiences to work for the benefit of others, Ellen is now employed as an Experience Consultant working with professionals, with mothers who have psychiatric difficulties and with their children. This paper describes some of the key skills involved in the work of Experience Consultants. It also offers a vision for re-thinking mental health services as partnerships built on a combination of ‘professional knowledge’ and ‘experience knowledge’. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.

  • Struggling for Dignity in a Time of Crisis— Turid Foss

    $5.50

    This paper describes the experience of a therapist who experienced psychosis and was hospitalised as a result. Turid’s experiences of her time on the ward have led to her questioning many taken-forgranted practices. This paper is a powerful invitation to all mental health practitioners to think differently about how we respond to those in crisis, to acknowledge the support and care offered between ‘patients’ within psychiatric wards, and to question and dismantle the artificial separation between ‘professionals’ and ‘those who experience mental health difficulties’. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.

  • Returning Mental Health Issues to the Realm of Culture and Community— Odd Volden

    $5.50

    Within Norway, as in many countries, there is a long history of people who have experienced mental health difficulties taking action to try to change the ways in which mental health struggles are understood and responded to. In this paper, Odd Volden traces the history of such actions within Norway. He also invites the reader to reconceptualise mental health crises as cultural experiences, to move mental health issues back into the realm of culture and community and, in doing so, to strengthen some of the valued traditions of our respective cultures. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.

  • Stories of Pride and Survival: From the Romany People— Sissel Wilmena Daabous

    $5.50

    In this evocative paper, Sissel Wilmena Daabous conveys some of the history of the Romany people (sometimes known as Travellers) and their rich skills of survival. This paper also describes Sissel’s attempts to develop ways of working with her people which are based on Romany culture, values, and skills, and which will be relevant to any practitioner who is interested in developing ways of working that are appropriate to their own culture and context. This paper was crafted from an interview1 and was delivered as a keynote address at the 8th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference, which was held at Agder University College in Kristiansand, Norway, June 2007.

  • Stories about Home— Leonie Simmons

    $9.90

    Leonie Simmons was born in Vietnam and adopted to an Australian family. Five years ago she returned to the place of her birth. This thoughtful and carefully written paper describes her journey and her efforts to deconstruct takenfor-granted ideas about culture, identity, family and home. It will be of relevance to anyone interested in ways of making home and making family as well as to those connected to the issue of inter-country adoption.

  • Up the Steep Side of the Queer Learning Curve: Some Things I’ve Learned about Sex, Gender and Sexuality— Mary Heath

    $9.90

    This article uses stories about everyday life to explore ideas about sex, gender and sexuality. It questions the dominant idea that there are only two sexes and two genders, and that sex should always be congruent with gender, drawing on queer theory – and intersex and transgendered people’s life stories. It also examines the challenges bisexuality and queer theory present to dominant ideas about sexuality, proposing that there are more than two sexualities, and that sexuality can change depending on time, circumstances, and other factors. The author suggests that people who believe that their own sex and gender are uncontroversial have much to learn from paying thorough attention to the richness of human diversity rather than accepting the dominant two-sex, two-gender story. She suggests that refusing to accept the limitations of the accepted accounts of sex, gender and sexuality opens the way to exciting conversations on these subjects. These conversations, and the social change which they are making possible, have much to offer to people who fit within the dominant models of sex, gender and sexuality as well as those whose lives are currently erased and denigrated by them.

  • Working with Traditional Structures to Support a Collaborative Clinical Practice— William Madsen

    $9.90

    This paper explores how to meet requirements for formal clinical paperwork in a way that is based on an ethic of collaboration and accountability. Using this approach, traditional clinical paperwork at the stages of ‘assessment’, ‘treatment planning’, and the ‘termination process’, – documents which previously could have been objectifying and further pathologising of people – can instead become collaboratively-produced therapeutic documents. This paper also explores some of the real effects of the current requirements for documentation and measurement, and suggests that practitioners should ‘take care to measure what is valuable rather than simply valuing what is measurable’.

  • Narrative Therapy, ‘Eating Disorders’, and Assessment: Exploring Constraints, Dilemmas, and Opportunities— Mim Weber

    $9.90

    This paper is a work in progress. It is an exploration of the usefulness of an eating disorders assessment and referral service to the people who consult it; and whether such a service can avoid practices which could be experienced as reinforcing of the eating disorder, pathologising, or blaming. It also looks at the possibility of working with narrative therapy ideas in an environment which does not necessarily subscribe to those ideas.

1,972 Comments

  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?

    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

  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

    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

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