2009: Issue 2

2009-no-2Dear Reader,

Welcome to this diverse issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work. The first section focuses on innovative approaches to working with young people. The lead paper, by Julie Tilsen and David Nylund, ‘Popular culture texts and young people: Making meaning, honouring resistance, and becoming Harry Potter’ describes ways in which narrative therapy practices and an engagement with popular culture can work hand-in-hand. The second paper, by Susannah Sheffer, explores how fiction-writing can assist young people to communicate experience after the death of a loved one.

The second section of this journal issue includes papers from Palestinian and Indian therapists. Dulwich Centre has a long history of partnership with therapists in the Middle East. Our team makes regular visits to this region to work closely with the Barcai Institute and Qesem Center in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) in Ramallah. Recent journal issues have featured the work of Israeli therapists Yael Gershoni, Saviona Cramer, Tali Gogol-Ostrowsky, Yishai Shalif and Rachel Paran.

This journal issue includes a paper by Palestinian therapist Nihaya Mahmud Abu-Rayyan which is entitled the ‘Seasons of Life: Ex-detainees reclaiming their lives’. This is a paper that we believe will be of significant assistance to those working with ex-detainees, or ex-prisoners in many different parts of the world. By publishing the papers of both Israeli and Palestinian colleagues, all of whom deplore violence against civilians, we hope to convey how therapists from both sides are seeking to stop the cycle of violence. There is something extremely significant to us about the ways in which Palestinian and Israeli therapists, out of experiences of profound conflict, terror and violence, are offering practitioners in different parts of the world new ways of responding to hardship.

Following Nihaya Mamud Abu-Rayyan’s paper, we are delighted to include the first paper we have ever published describing narrative therapy within India. Kalyani Vishwanatha describes the use of narrative approaches with a young girl.

Part Three of this journal issue focuses on narrative explorations in clinical health psychology, featuring a paper from Rob Whittaker.

And finally, we have included two papers that involve talking about sex and sexual identity. Barbara Baumgartner’s paper ‘A multiplicity of desire: Polyamory & relationship counselling’ was offered as a keynote address at the 9th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference in Adelaide in November last year. Ash Rehn’s paper, ‘Is this sex addiction? Questioning “sex addiction” in therapeutic counselling conversations’ poses questions about the construction of sex addiction within psychotherapy.

This issue contains writings from authors from the USA, Canada, Palestine, UK and Australia. It is a diverse collection! As always, we welcome your feedback.

Warm regards,

Cheryl White


  • Popular Culture Texts and Young People: Making Meaning, Honouring Resistance, and Becoming Harry Potter— Julie Tilsen & David Nylund


    The article discusses how popular culture produces much of the materials out of which people fashion their identities. These materials include images and messages from the music, TV, film, technology and fashion industries.

  • Finding Grief: Using Fiction-writing to Communicate Experience after the Death of a Loved One— Susannah Sheffer


    This paper tells the story of how a fifteen-year-old boy, in the aftermath of his mother’s death, discovered a way to articulate and share his experience through writing, particularly through the creation of a fictional character. The paper looks closely at the relationship between the teenager and the author who worked with him, and at the way in which fiction can offer a unique opportunity to create a character that is ‘not oneself’ while paradoxically allowing for a deeper exploration of one’s own emotional landscape.

  • Seasons of Life: Ex-detainees Reclaiming Their Lives— Nihaya Mahmud Abu-Rayyan


    This paper describes therapeutic/psychosocial support work with Palestinian ex-prisoners. This work draws upon imagery from nature’s seasons and elements to create conversations based on a ‘seasons of life’ metaphor. This metaphor enables ex-detainees to trace their journey through the stages of detention, incarceration, and release into society. This approach offers opportunities for ex-detainees to offer double-storied testimonies of their prison experiences and to draw upon the skills and knowledges they used to endure incarceration in order to move forward with their lives.

  • Using Narrative Approaches with a Young Girl in India— Kalyani Vishwanatha & Uma Hirisave


    This paper summarises conversations with a ten-year-old girl in India, using ideas and practices from narrative therapy to revise a relationship with fear and ‘helplessness’. The paper also includes a discussion of children and mental health issues in India, and suggestions for school-based early intervention programs for children at risk of developing emotional problems.

  • Narrative Explorations in Clinical Health Psychology— Rob Whittaker


    This paper documents the author’s experience as a clinical psychologist using narrative approaches with people living with diabetes. The paper begins by contrasting narrative and poststructuralist approaches with those of contemporary clinical health psychology, and gives some background on diabetes and the broader challenges this can bring to people’s lives. Three narrative practices are then explored in relation to diabetes: externalising conversations, re-authoring conversations, and practices of circulation. This last practice is shown through a number of letters written to the referring community nurse in a regional diabetes service, but also serving as therapeutic documents for the person who consulted with the author.

  • A Multiplicity of Desire: Polyamory and Relationship Counselling— Barbara Baumgartner


    Reflecting on a personal and professional journey, this paper invites readers to consider prevailing ideas of monogamy and its effects on relationship counselling. The term and practice of polyamory are introduced, highlighting how society’s training in monogamy obscures this choice. An interview with experience consultants challenges some of the myths of polyamorous relationships and makes suggestions for counsellors.

  • Is This Sex Addiction?: Questioning ‘Sex Addiction’ in Therapeutic Counselling Conversations— Ash Rehn


    This paper examines the concept of ‘sex addiction’, and its increasing popularity since the emergence of AIDS in gay communities in the 1980s. Adopting narrative therapy’s ethical orientations of decentred yet influential positioning, and being in a ‘lifelong apprenticeship’, the author worked with a number of men to renegotiate their relationship with ‘sex addiction’ in their lives. This work included various maps of narrative practice, including the Statement of Position Map / externalising conversations, re-membering conversations, the absent but implicit, and deconstructive conversations.