2013: Issue 1

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ijntcw_2013_issue_1_coverWelcome to the first issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2013!

This issue begins with two papers from diverse contexts within Australia. The first shares stories from Christmas Island, where Poh Lin Lee works with asylum seekers and survivors of torture and trauma. The second shares creative ways of working developed in Aboriginal residential and other drugs services open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Both papers offer new ways of responding to social suffering and creative forms of narrative practice. The authors of these papers also presented their work at the recent 11th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference. It’s possible to watch a video of Poh Lin Lee’s presentations by clicking here

The second section focuses on considerations of cultural democracy and critical race theory and how these concepts and fields of knowledge can challenge and extend the field of narrative practice. The third section contains two papers about the use of narrative ideas within organisations.

Along the way, a delightful short story of practice from the UK is included, about returning the normalising gaze.

Once again, this is a diverse collection of thoughtful writings. We hope they are relevant and interesting to you in whatever context you may be reading them. We will look forward to hearing your thoughts about them.


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  • Making now precious: narrative conversations with asylum seekers— Poh Lin Lee

    $9.90

    This paper explores bringing together a series of narrative principles and practices in response to those who are seeking asylum in Australia and also experiencing the consequences of torture and trauma. This work is a description of ongoing coresearch with asylum seekers into conversations that can be meaningful in a context of unpredictability and instability. This invitational approach makes way for rich alternative story development, re-membering conversations, and bringing to light moments that sustain and nurture through hardship. This work emphasises an approach of ‘making now precious’ by creating pathways for narrative conversations to be carried in nomadic, transportable ways in the hearts of people as they face the long tumultuous journey of seeking asylum, safety and belonging.

  • Finding the ‘voice’ to speak: Women and men talk about relationships— Dion Anderson, Bea Edwards, Mark Hammersley, Marnie Sather and Greg Smith

    $9.90

    Winja Ulupna (‘women’s haven’) is an Aboriginal residential alcohol and other drug service for women. Galiamble (‘dry place on a hill’), the equivalent service for men. These services are open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. Winja Ulupna and Galiamble are services of Ngwala Willumbong (‘dry place’) Cooperative. Based in an Aboriginal service, narrative group work was used to assist women and men talk about relationships, in a safe and positive manner. Exchanges of collective documents between the groups led to joint readings and song. The women reported positive developments in attitudes and support provided by men at the service. The men reported improved understanding of the circumstances of the women and improvements in the quality of relationships with their partners. The article provides a case study of one approach to supporting positive developments in relationships in Aboriginal settings. The approach may also be relevant to non-Aboriginal settings. Also included are a series of reflections, responses and critiques from experienced Aboriginal health workers.

  • Reflections on conversations which ‘returned the normalising gaze’— Peter Ord and Rosemary

    $5.50

    Normal is a word that has a history in geometry that was applied as a measure of human functioning early in the 19th Century. As has been noted elsewhere the concepts of normal and normality have become taken-for-granted ideas within western culture as if they have an existence independent from their historical and cultural origins. The effects of the ‘normalising gaze’ have been widely studied. This paper is a description of a therapeutic encounter in which conversations were shared which ‘turned the spotlight back on the normalising gaze’. These conversations were shared by Peter and Rosemary. This paper has been written with the hope that other people (both therapists and those consulting therapists) can be inspired to find their own ways to expose and have some fun while returning the normalising gaze.

  • Cultural Democracy: Politicizing and historicizing the adoption of narrative practices in the Americas— marcela polanco

    $5.50

    Many practices of narrative therapy have spread widely around the world when adopted by practitioners of diverse cultures. In this paper, I present a personal reflection on my attempts at politicising and historicising the adoption of narrative therapy into my local culture. In a spirit of cultural democracy, I depart from acknowledging my own heritage of mestizaje, including the history of colonisation of Latin America. Following, I briefly present three phases as possible preparations for the initial arrival of narrative therapy to my culture and subsequent dialogue among cultures: a) adopting a decolonial critical stance; b) foreignising narrative practices; and c) facilitating cultural agency. I illustrate my attempts at dialoging with the foreign term externalisation to translate/reimagine its decolonial version in my local culture.

  • Working with African American clients using narrative therapy: An Operational Citizenship and Critical Race Theory framework— Jocelyn DeVance Taliaferro, Willa J. Casstevens & Jessica T. DeCuir Gunby

    $9.90

    Operational citizenship has a place in multicultural counselling, particularly when White therapists counsel African American clients. This article suggests that the intersection of critical race theory and narrative therapy can lead to operational citizenship within the therapeutic relationship, which can generalise beyond that relationship into the larger environment. A clinical case study regarding an African American man is presented. Through the case study, concepts of this model are explicated. The authors provide implications for practice.

  • A narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning in community organisations: A ritual of legacy in transition— Frances Hancock and David Epston

    $9.90

    In this paper we explore the relevance and possible applications of narrative forms of enquiry to strategic planning in community organisations. How does one translate the ideas and practices of narrative enquiry, which have their genesis in the realm of family therapy, to the field of organisational development? Are there ‘family resemblances’ or do such practices need to be re-invented? In particular, what is a possible starting point for a narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning with community organisations? We propose that a narrative enquiry approach to strategic planning can rouse practitioners at all levels of the organisation to recall and pass on ‘stories that deeply matter’. Such storytelling implicates a ‘story-in-the-making’ in the form of a stirring and unfolding organisational legacy. Organisational practitioners not only remember that legacy into the present but also appraise how it might pass in transit into ‘a sought-after future’. Narrative enquiry may assist organisational practitioners (paid or voluntary, governance or staff) to inspirit their practice with a new-found sense of meaning, purpose and zeal for organisational mission. It may also help summon foresight to evolve a strategic direction and plan capable of guiding them, perhaps along ‘the road less travelled’ towards a soughtafter future.

  • Building bridges: Re-authoring workplace relationships— Ninetta Tavano

    $9.90

    This article reflects on the journey of many therapists to find ways of sustaining collegial relationships across differing paradigms. The author offers three stories of consultation with therapists about workplace difficulties to demonstrate the use of a number of narrative approaches. These include externalising conversations, richly describing intentional state understandings, and re-membering practices.

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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