2017: Issue 2

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in | 0 comments

Dear Reader,

Welcome to this collection of narrative practice papers from Singapore, UK, Australia, New Zealand, China & the USA!

It’s a diverse collection and we hope the ideas included here are helpful to you and those with whom you work.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Warm regards,

Cheryl White





‘Recipes for life: A collective narrative methodology for responding to gender violence’ Meizi Tan. (Pages 1-12) 

‘We don’t give up: Developing family and community responses to adolescent-to-parent violence’ Ben Shannahan. (Pages 13-27)

‘Stories of hope and pride’ Emma Cox. (Pages 28-36)

‘Exploring narrative group work to responding to burn out in novice teachers’ Fan Lingli. (Pages 37-44)

‘Stuttering therapy when the problem isn’t stuttering: Using narrative practices in a fluency-centric society’ Voon Pang. (Pages 45-54)

‘The chasing of tales: Poetic licence with the written word in narrative practice’ Carmen Ostrander. (Pages 55-64)

Showing all 6 results

  • Recipes for life: A collective narrative methodology for responding to gender violence— Meizi Tan


    This paper explores the use of collective narrative methodology in a two-day group retreat organised for women who had experienced gender violence in their intimate relationships. The women developed ‘recipes for life’ by using the skills and knowledge they had developed through responding to gender violence. Outsider-witness practices were used to acknowledge the women’s alternative stories of resilience and resistance to gender violence. Narrative practices of collective documentation, externalising the problem, and deconstructing social discourses that support gender violence, were incorporated through the creative use of food metaphors. This supported the women in breaking their silence and reduced the sense of isolation, shame and disempowerment that often surrounds gender violence.

  • We don’t give up: Developing family and community responses to adolescent-to-parent violence— Ben Shannahan


    This paper explores the use of narrative therapy practices in developing a community response to a young man’s use of violence towards his family. Opportunities and ethical tensions experienced in incorporating principles and methods of nonviolent resistance (Omer, 2004) are discussed along with opportunities narrative therapy might offer as a response to these tensions. Different conceptions of responsibility and accountability, and the pushes and pulls of dominant aspects of men’s culture, are considered in relation to how these factors might shape responses to adolescent-to-parent violence, and how multi-generational men’s meetings were incorporated as part of this work.

  • Stories of hope and pride— Emma Cox


    Pregnant women with negative identity conclusions often have their stories of hope and pride overshadowed by problem-saturated stories. Consequently, their stories of hope and pride remain unnoticed and untold. This paper describes how narrative practices can create space for these women’s stories of hope and pride to be noticed and richly told in ways that allow women to reconnect with previously subjugated knowledges. Further, this paper includes two stories of practice that demonstrate the significant and powerful outcomes that have been made possible through the use of narrative practice innovations that create space for women’s stories of hope and pride to be noticed and told.

  • Exploring narrative group work for responding to burnout in novice teachers— Fan Lingli


    This paper describes a project supporting six novice teachers in Chinese public kindergartens to successfully take charge of their lives during their first year of teaching. With the help of externalising conversations and re-authoring conversations, we explored the realities of being a new teacher, and how burnout had invaded these teachers’ lives. The teachers came to recognise themselves again and to honour their own uniqueness. Using the mobile instant messaging software WeChat, the project established a virtual community for teachers to gain further interpersonal support and develop skills and knowledges about extricating themselves from their predicaments. Finally, through a definitional ceremony, the project created an opportunity for teachers to tell their stories more vividly and to build consensus with more people. All participants in this project came to understand burnout in new teachers as a sociocultural product. We hope that structural change will happen in our educational system.

  • Stuttering therapy when the problem isn’t stuttering: Using narrative practices in a fluency-centric society— Voon Pang


    Since the early 2000s, practitioners have developed beneficial ways of using narrative practices in work with adults who stutter. This article extends their work to apply narrative practices to work with children and young people who stutter. In a speech language therapy context, externalising conversations were used to determine how young people understood their own speech ‘problems’ – sometimes in ways that contrasted with dominant fluency-centric models, which seek to eliminate or reduce stuttering. Listening for ‘unique outcomes’ and ‘sparkling moments’ enabled the development of alternative stories, in which the hard won skills and knowledges of these young people were made clear. This work was supported by the use of letter writing to support people’s campaigns against the effects of stuttering, and methods to archive and disseminate the knowledges of these young people with regard to living with stuttering. Adopting a narrative approach also enabled a more collaborative way of working and provided opportunities to address issues of power and privilege in the therapeutic relationship.

  • The chasing of tales: Poetic licence with the written word in narrative practice— Carmen Ostrander


    This paper explores narrative applications of the written word in practice, including recreations of innovations I have been drawn to in my reading and through conversations with people who have supported my development as a therapist. It also describes applications that extend the therapeutic use of the written word in the spirit of playfulness and creativity I believe to be at the heart of narrative innovation. Narrative influences on the written word in administrative contexts, letter writing, note taking and other creative forms are described, communicating the influence of a year immersed in narrative ways of working.


  1. in what ways have you entered into collaborations before? What made these collaborations possible?

    As a peer worker most of my work was entering into collaborations with young people. I would use curiosity to further inquire into their experience, and looking back wow these narrative practices would have been amazing to use in our youth group discussions! We would use art mostly in telling stories. Many of the young people heard voices and saw characters only they could see. They would enjoy painting these voices, externalising the character, giving it a name and talking about the story and nature of the relationship between the voice and the character. I also enjoyed illiciting these stories, as I could tell they would begin to separate themselves from the voices, allowing for guilt and shame to reduce.

    What might make it hard to enter into these practices?

    The one difficult way of entering into these practices was the note writing. The managerial culture of my last workplace meant it was not considered good practice to have clients sit with us to write notes. In fact most clients probably were unaware that workers did regularly make notes each time they had contact with the centre. We were a strengths based centre that thrived on person centred practice. I think there is a bit of a stereotype that note writing is quite clinical and removed from person centred practice, hence a certain avoidance of bringing up notes in front of clients.

    If these ways of working fit for you, what next steps could you take to build partnerships/collaborations in your work?

    I definitely believe I could continue to use art to help young people tell their alternative stories. In mental health many workers draw thin conclusions of clients – bipolar, poor attachment, violent, with even their strengths really talked about in third person. It would be great to start drawing peoples strengths out with the use of story telling, so that clients can start to own their strengths, rather than have clinicans cherry pick these out.

  2. Thank you to Tileah for a wonderful presentation. I love hearing the word “yarn” used in this powerful way (Americans also have that term). The practice of “translating”, of shifting concepts into language that can be more usefully heard, is very powerful. As coaches we can make good use of this to help clients uncover their hidden or forgotten resources.

  3. These stories are amazing examples of what we can discover when we hold onto our “beginner’s mind” and remember that the other person (client, patient) has the information and understanding, not us. We talk a lot in leadership development about “co-creating” and I think this is a beautiful example of two very complementary roles: the person who has the story and the person who helps to explore and shape it.

  4. I like the idea of narrative – there is something about giving people the power to create a narrative, rather than simply appearing in a story told by someone else. Within the narrative metaphor, I especially enjoy the fabric metaphor – the idea of strands. These may touch each other, or not, may go well together in tone or color, or not. But again, there is some power in creating and weaving the narrative.
    In my own work with coaching and leadership development, I find that the emphasis on narrative(s) helps make things more tangible, and therefore brings them to their true scale, instead of letting them take on imaginary and unclearly described proportions.

  5. I love this. Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger. Such a powerful sentiment. Sometimes through trauma, it is hard to access the words that really encapsulate that experience – though using the written word does help us access those hard to utter parts of our memories … in those cases though perhaps the story we tell ourselves is not one that makes us feel strong in the first instance – so finding a way to tell that story in a way that focuses on the strength of surviving to tell that story is just amazing!