A first person principle: Philosophical reflections on narrative practice within a mainstream psychiatric service for young people—Philippa Byers and David Newman


This paper is a collaboration between David Newman, an experienced narrative therapy practitioner and teacher, and Philippa Byers, a narrative therapy student with an academic background in philosophy. The paper charts ideas developed during Philippa’s student placement with David, as they discussed narrative practice, other mental health practices and philosophy. The paper draws on philosophy of language and the philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, applying this to Michael White’s injunction to look (and listen) for the experience-near in the words and phrases that are offered to narrative therapists. It offers philosophical reflections on an ethical principle of narrative practice which Philippa and David call a first person principle. The first person principle is elaborated in a discussion of David’s narrative practice with young people. This offers philosophical and practical insights to some of the issues and questions that may arise for narrative therapists who, like David, practice within mainstream services, encountering ‘neuro’ and other professionalised discourses and accompanying expectations.