2013: Issue 3

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Welcome to the third issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2013! This journal issue begins with explorations by Michal Simchon and Steve Armstrong linking narrative practice, bibliotherapy and poetics.

The second section features a substantial paper from Hung Suet Lin, Shirley and David Denborough that describes a project in Hong Kong in which women survivors of sexual violence unearth new conceptions of justice amidst their journey of healing. Considering the relationship between ‘healing and justice’ and considering what might constitute ‘narrative justice’ are challenging topics. If you are interested in these realms we would welcome your comments, ideas, and/or stories of practice.

Part Three of this issue contains a sparkling theoretical contribution from Kyle Sawyer in relation to trans subjectivity; and a practice-based paper by Ben Knowles in relation to narrative bush adventure therapy. the diversity of contexts in which narrative practices are now engaged never ceases to amaze!

We are also pleased to announce that the next issue of this journal will feature a new column coordinated by David Epston, focusing on innovations in narrative therapy. Stay tuned!


 

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  • Words from the brink of the chasm: Poetic, bibliotherapeutic writing in narrative therapy – the use of literary texts and the discovery of preferred stories— Michal Simchon

    $9.90

    This article aims to integrate bibliotherapy and narrative therapy. The use of writing and reading processes can help reveal preferred stories. Asking people to talk about themselves and tell their life stories using excerpts from poems makes their story unique and exotic. Writing in this fashion empowers their experiences and exposes the details of the unique outcome that are embedded in the text. Similarly, this type of writing enables people to express experiences that are difficult to articulate in ordinary words. This article demonstrates the contribution of therapeutic writing and the discourse that arises from it for narrative therapy that is usually conducted orally.

    Free paper:

    This article comes with a companion piece:

    Toward a poetics of therapy: A response to Michal Simchon’s ‘Words From the Brink of the Chasm’— Steve Armstrong

    This is a complementary piece in response to Michal Simchon’s observations about the integration of bibliotherapy and narrative therapy in ‘Words From the Brink of the Chasm’ (2013). I make some suggestions about what might be called the poetics of therapy. In particular, how poetry can enliven therapeutic conversation; how poems and a poet’s passion for precise word choice, help guard against stale imagery or description and can aid in locating vivid descriptions for lived experience that might otherwise be practically beyond words. Based on Simchon’s discussion of free-writing in groups and Bachelards’ Poetics of Reverie (1969), I offer a re-imagining of White and Epston’s (1990) landscape of action and consciousness.

     

  • Unearthing new concepts of justice: Women sexual violence survivors seeking healing and justice— Hung Suet-Lin and David Denborough

    $9.90

    Justice and healing are closely linked. A strong sense of injustice can hinder healing. In the context of Hong Kong, and likely in many other places, where the legal system is seen as the only means for achieving justice, and legal/criminal justice is upheld as the only concept of justice, many survivors of sexual violence are left with few options for healing redress. Expanding concepts of justice beyond those rooted in criminal law systems may increase the possibilities for healing. This project describes one such collective process, enabling Chinese women who have experienced sexual violence to move from single story testimonies of harm done, to double story testimonies that include the responses, skills and values of survivors. The process involved richly acknowledging the multiple injustices and effects of these injustices, developing a storyline of surviving injustices including the steps taken by women to ‘break the secrecy’ and ‘not pursing any further’ in the legal system, and creating a forum of narrative justice. It was acknowledged that justice can be achieved in multiple ways, in the social and in people’s eyes and judgment, which may have historic cultural resonances.

    Free articles:

    This article comes with two companion pieces:

    Unearthed conceptions of justice for women who have experienced sexual violence: Possibilities for healing and enhancing criminal justice— Haley Clark

    How women understand justice and the relevance of this to criminal justice practice is often overlooked in literature on system responses to sexual violence. By reflecting on Hung’s and Denborough’s (2013) article, I consider that the value of collective narrative justice forums in developing understandings of justice and promoting healing for women who have experienced sexual violence and system injustice is apparent. I argue that in addition to contributing to individual healing the unearthed concepts of justice have relevance to the ways in which sexual violence is responded to within the criminal justice system and in society generally. Privileging the knowledge and insights of women enables more robust understandings of justice to emerge, and opens new possibilities to strengthen responses to sexual violence.

    Healing and justice together: searching for narrative justice— David Denborough

    Once we acknowledge that we have a profound and often unnamed and unacknowledged problem in our country; that our ‘justice system’ in many ways perpetuates injustice, then what are we to do? If we are the receivers of stories of social injustice, then what are our responsibilities? Perhaps we can’t leave matters of justice only to lawyers and the legal system. Perhaps we can question how our work can contribute to both healing and justice. This piece was created from a speech given by David Denborough at the 10th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference held in Adelaide, Australia, March 2013.

     

  • Explorations in trans* subjectivity— Kyle Sawyer

    $5.50

    This paper explores the enforcement of anti-trans* subjectivity and the ways in which trans* individuals are resisting, challenging, and creating new ways of being. Anti-trans* subjectivity is informed, defined, and enforced by discursive power, coercive power, and repressive power. This paper uses theories from Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, Julia Serrano, Dean Spade, Joan Roughgarden, and many more to define the different types of power and explore the possibilities of trans* subjectivity as a place of knowing. This paper shows how trans* individuals are resisting an anti-trans* subjectivity by creating and introducing new and exciting possibilities of moving through and seeing the world in which we exist. For the unabridged version please visit: www.kylesawyer. weebly.com

  • Journeys in the bush— Ben Knowles

    $9.90

    This paper begins a process of joining ideas and practices of Narrative Therapy and Bush Adventure Therapy. Through examples drawn from 9–12 day bush journeys with young men and women who are experiencing difficulty in their lives, it invites the reader to imagine the storying potential of such experiences and consider the practices that surround and support them. The paper highlights the importance of developing and maintaining collegial relationships that support young people to realise and extend their existing knowledge and skill. It explores how we traverse between the known and familiar territories of people’s lives and the otherworldly landscapes of the bush journey to create fertile ground for making new stories.

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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