The power to speak: Poetic re-presentation as an ethical aesthetic research practice for narrative therapists — Sarah Penwarden and Laurel Richardson


Narrative therapists may hold a commitment to a person speaking for and making meaning of their own life stories – maintaining a person’s speaking rights as the primary meaning maker of their lives. When therapists wish to research counselling practice to gain new insights about the effects of the work, how they handle the speaking of those who participate in their research requires ethical sensitivity. This paper considers the value to narrative therapy practitioners of a qualitative research approach to representing participants’ words: poetic re-presentation. Created by American sociologist Laurel Richardson, poetic re-presentation is a research strategy that involves a researcher turning transcripts of participants’ words into found poetry. This strategy clearly delineates between the speaking of the participant in a research conversation and the later representation of this speaking on the page in a researcher’s writing. As such, this approach seeks to maintain the participant as speaking in excess of the meaning the researcher makes of it: speaking for themselves.