2009: Issue 2

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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


Showing all 7 results

  • 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.


  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.