outsider witnessing

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in | 0 comments

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  • Linking Families Together: Narrative Conversations with Children, Adolescents, and Their Families— Jodi Aman

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    This paper explores ways of responding to the problems children and adolescents face in ways that include and honour the contributions of other family members. For example, parents and care-givers can be enlisted to help with scaffolding and outsiderwitnessing, as well as providing what the author refers to as ‘comemories’. The paper also discusses specific ways of working with children, such as keeping therapeutic conversations fun, regarding children as ‘story listeners’, opening space for conversations about difficult problems, and using therapeutic documents. How these considerations are put into practice is then documented in three accounts of working with children and adolescents on issues of anxiety, the death of a pet, and a parent’s diagnosis of cancer.

  • The ‘Bellayla’ Project – bringing storylines of identity into relationships of harmony— Peter Bourke

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    This paper shares the journey of the ‘Bellayla Project’, a co-research initiative between the author and two young people, Bella and Tayla. It describes how engagement in this project enabled second-story development in the lives of these two young people. It also conveys what becomes possible for young people when they are invited into a space of critical thinking, collective inquiry, and sharing knowledge about ‘problems’.

  • Privileging Insider-knowledges in the World of Autism— Courtney Olinger

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    Diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) continue to rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States of America suggested in 2007 that 1 in 150 eight-year-olds in the US has autism. In 2009 the CDC prevalence rose to 1 in 110. With the rising number of diagnoses, more families are impacted. Unfortunately, discourses surrounding ASD often present limited views and ways of working with these families. Using narrative practices, insider-knowledges can be privileged and guide professionals. This article presents ways that service providers can incorporate outsider-witnessing to elevate parents to ‘expert’ status, involve parents’ voices, and promote agency. It also includes a collective document of parents’ insider-knowledges which can be circulated to inform professionals and parents about the experiences of autism.

  • Responding to children in situations of family violence: Narrative therapy group work with children— Jocelyn Lee

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    This paper discusses a practice innovation: a two-day, one-night group work process conducted with children who lived in households that use violence. The author developed the ‘My Happy Ending’ group work using narrative therapy principles and practices to respond to children in situations of family violence. The children were clients consulting with social workers or counsellors within the social service agency the author works in, Tampines Family Service Center in Singapore. As part of the practice innovation, the author created an original group work curriculum, consisting of the performance and narration of an original fictional story, and several play- and art-based activities. The purpose was to decrease the influence of family violence in the children’s lives and to increase their personal agency in dealing with it, using key narrative therapy practices. These narrative practices included externalisation of the problem, using metaphors, increasing people’s sense of personal agency, scaffolding preferred stories and identities, de-constructing discourses, outsider-witnessing, definitional ceremonies and creating collective documents. Narrative therapy practices were found to be helpful for enhancing children’s sense of agency and diminishing the influence of past and ongoing experiences of family violence and other difficulties faced in their daily lives.

  • The Circle: A narrative group therapy approach— Mike Mertz

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    This article describes ‘Circle’, a narrative group therapy approach used in a high-level residential treatment facility for young people involved in the child welfare, juvenile justice, or mental health systems. Most of the young people engaged in Circle have survived significant physical or sexual abuse or neglect and have been viewed, by others and themselves, as ‘severely emotionally disturbed’ or ‘dysfunctional’. Circle is intended to provide a space and opportunity for these young people to build a community of concern, and to identify and embrace preferred identities and directions for their lives. The work progresses through the following three stages: stage one – identifying what the young people give value to, exploring their preferred directions in life, and externalising problems; stage two – taking a stand for what the young people hold as important, negotiating their relationships with problems, and thickening the subordinate storylines of their lives; and stage three – stepping into preferred identities. Three exercises also are provided as illustrations of work completed in each stage of Circle.

  • Weaving networks of hope with families, practitioners and communities: Inspirations from systemic and narrative approaches— Glenda Fredman

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    Over the last decade, inspired by systemic family therapy and narrative approaches, Glenda and her teams in the UK have found ways to bring families, practitioners and communities together to respond to medical, mental health and social care crises. This work has taken place with children, adolescents, older people and people affected by intellectual disability and their families. This paper shares an inspiring story of this work and describes ways of ‘conducting’ and ‘weaving’ networks of hope.

2,023 Comments

  1. I’m Clayre Sessoms from Vancouver, BC, Canada, traditionally known as Coast Salish Territories. I acknowledge that my work takes place on the ancestral, unceded, and occupied territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Nations of the Coast Salish People whose relationship with the land is ancient, primary, and enduring. I’m an uninvited settler in what is colonially known as Vancouver. Because my place of work is on stolen land I commit to support a reconciliation, which includes reparations and the return of land. Here I study counselling psychology and art therapy, and I get to incorporate narrative therapy at my practicum placement, a site that provides free counselling services for LGBTQ2S individuals.

    These materials help me to begin to wrap my head around the complexities of narrative therapy. I especially enjoyed learning about how others have used narrative therapy in practical counselling settings.

    I’m moved by how we often tend to hear, accept, or retell the thinnest stories of our lives and the lives of others. I imagine that not valuing the richness of an individual’s diverse range of stories, perhaps, it has been much easier to cling to tired old preconceived notions about others, which can cause undue harm.

    I’m left thinking about the TEDTalk by Chimamanda Adichie about the dangers of accepting a singular story of someone else, rather than leaning in and committing to understand the wholeness of that person’s narrative.

    I look forward to continuing to learn. Thank you to The Dulwich Centre for providing this accessible forum. <3

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

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