The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

2023 Issue One

Dear Reader,

Welcome to this first issue of the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work for 2022.

In the midst of profoundly challenging times, practitioners in many different parts of the world are using narrative practices to respond to diverse social sufferings.

In this issue, you can read hopeful accounts of work from China, Australia, USA and Rwanda.

This collection includes accounts of therapy, group work, community work (with those experiencing mental health struggles across Rwanda), hospice biography, and attempts to support survivors of rape through the criminal legal system.

There are many innovative approaches described here, including the interweaving of fantasy and narrative practice in 2SLGBTQIA+ therapeutic contexts, and the use of daydreaming as entry points to alternative stories.

It’s an invigorating collection and we hope it brings ideas for your practice wherever you may be living and working.

Cheryl White
On behalf of Dulwich Centre team

Peer-Reviewed Papers

The River of Life safety map: Narrative journeys in a school-based setting — Clare Kempton Sladden

This article explores the use of narrative practices in a school-based setting to approach safety planning with young people. The article proposes an alternative safety planning tool: The River of Life safety map, which draws on the migration of identity metaphor. The author explores opportunities for collaboration in safety planning and risk management, drawing on feminist ethics. A story of practice gives suggestions for how one may use the map.

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Using narrative practices to support academic development in an after-school program — Deborah Mrema

This paper describes the use of narrative practices in work with young people in an after-school academic support program in Tanzania. Through games, outsider witnessing, re-authoring conversations and the Tree of Life process, we brought to light skills and experiences that had previously been left unrecognised by the evaluation tools we had been using to track students’ progress. The Tree of Life in particular created space for our students to rediscover unique abilities and areas in which they shine. These had previously been hidden behind dominant stories about living in an orphanage or not meeting expectations at school. The use of narrative practices supported growth, development and healing for our students.

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Building bridges across stories: Developing cross-cultural partnerships to challenge masculinity — Nicolas Mosso Tupper

This paper explores the possibilities of developing cross-cultural partnerships to support men in defying dominant prescriptions of masculinity. It focuses on the individual stories of two men of different ages and experiences living on different continents, and shows the coming together of their stories. Both undertook a migration of identity away from dominating ideas and beliefs that justified harm and abuse, and towards a preferred form of masculinity aligned with their values, and with practices of dignity and nonviolence. Through the creation, translation and sharing of documents of resistance, each of these men was able to contribute to the other, and to receive something in return.

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A personal reflection on “depression”: Not only a problem but also a learning opportunity — Barry Sullivan

For most of 2022, I was challenged by depression. One of its effects was to derail action-taking skills in my personal and professional life, leading to a sense of paralysis. This paper documents the narrative therapy skills and knowledge that helped me to move out from under depression’s dark cloud and shows how I applied learnings from my personal experience to my work with clients, including those also dealing with depression.

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Featured Videos

Unravelling trauma, co-creating relief and weaving resilience: Playful collaborations with children, families and networks, by Sabine Vermeire

In times of hardship, talking directly about painful or traumatic experiences, overwhelming emotions, or problematic actions with children, young people or families can be difficult. As co-researchers, we invite children, youngsters and their families and networks to contribute in playful ways to unravelling the tentacles of hardship and re(dis)covering a sense of agency, belonging and coherence. Together, we look in unexpected corners for safe places to build a team of support and solidarity. In dis-covering a multiplicity of stories rather than being trapped in one dominant story of trauma or loss, we co-create relief and develop more coherent storylines that weave the experiences and stories about hardship into the fabric of their lives.

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Complexities of disability, chronic illness and able-bodied privilege — Gipsy Hosking

This video explores Gipsy’s lived experience of chronic illness to give an introduction to disability politics. She invites the listener to investigate their own relationship to disability and able-bodied privilege and how this may show up in their narrative work. Gipsy shares with us the methodology (participant action research) that enabled her PhD research work (on young women’s lived experience of chronic illness) to also be a tool for social change and to create a positive impact for participants by the collective coming together and sharing of stories.

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Curiosity, power and narrative practice, Perry Zurn interviewed by Zan Maeder

What are some of the dominant and alternative stories of curiosity? How do we wield it and to what effect? What does it mean to attend to the politics of curiosity in our lives and work and to acknowledge it as a collective practice and social force that can colonise, normalise and divide us and disrupt, liberate and connect us? Zan Maeder interviews Perry Zurn, Provost Associate Professor of Philosophy at American University and author of Curiosity and power: The politics of inquiry (2021) about work tracing histories of curiosity in philosophy and political theory and co-creating (with many other transgressors, past and present) possibilities for ethical and liberatory curiosity praxis.

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My favourite questions by Jill Freedman, read by Esther Benz

In this audio recording of a favourite paper from the journal’s archives, Jill Freedman offers three sets of questions that she names as “favourites” in her own work. The first two sets of questions are ones therapists can ask clients. The first set may help people link their lives with others. The second may help people organise their experiences into narratives. The third is a question that therapists can ask themselves
to help them come to questions that promote experiential involvement.

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Planet stories: Using AI-generated science fiction to externalise conflict in relationships — Andrea Ng

Externalising can be useful in addressing conflict in relationships. It can provide space for deconstruction, the consideration of shared values and new meaning-making. It also avoids the labelling and deficit identity conclusions that can accompany internalised accounts. This audio practice note describes an emerging practice for working with couples experiencing conflict: using an artificial intelligence tool to generate science fiction stories to support the externalising of a problem and open space for reauthoring conversations.

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