The New York Times has a nice piece today on the work of a Chaplain who uses narrative practice and religion in her work at a Queens psychiatric hospital.
“The thing that strikes me about psychiatric patients,” Ms. Olson said in an interview this month, “is that so many people tell their story for them. When do they get to tell it for themselves? The act of writing is that your story is not only worth being told, but being heard. And this is all based on their story being sacred.Their experience, heartbreaking as it is, is held by God.”...Read More Here
From time to time I am asked by people I work with to help provide assessment documentation for various social work agencies or the courts. When I first started to write these types of documents it was always my intention to do a strength based assessment rather than a "professional discourse" assessment that often times leaves no room for the clients experience or words. I always tried to honor the clients experience when writing these documents, but felt that I was missing something. Several months back in one of Anne Arnold's consultation groups the topic was narrative documents. It was during this group that Anne read some examples of professional documents she had written where the clients voice was moved front and center.
This week I was asked to write a document for a client for an agency and rather than doing just a strength based assessment, I asked if I could include her words in the document. She agreed, and I went back to the Madsen's book to help guide my questions. In the book Madsen has great examples of questions that can be asked around professional documents. The collaboration went great and we were able to put together a great document detailing her experience of putting a family back together, change, and a good and healthy life. If you don't have Bill Madsen's book I highly reccommend you pick up a copy. It's a vision changer. Or better yet, new consultation groups are forming at the Narrative Project of Orange County where you can come learn how to do these types of documents in person. Ask me for details.
I define storytelling as the untangling of, and bringing order to, the chaos of actual experience and packaging it in a way that is usable for yourself and other people going forward. There is an interesting psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Shay, who studies post-traumatic stress by comparing the experience of Iraq war veterans with heroes from ancient Greek tragedies coming home from war. He concludes that what is missing now is the crucial decompression period of the soldiers’ journey home. In ancient Greece after battle, soldiers had a two-month boat trip home during which they could compartmentalize experience into stories, so they could be ready to reintegrate with their families and share the experience in a very mythical, well-understood way. Now, as a soldier coming back from Iraq, without that time to create a story, you’re rocked by that chaos. So, I think that’s something stories can do—prepare their way of finding meaning in this madness and bringing some order to the chaos. - Jonathan Harris
I was notified that Kathie Adams will be re-starting the L.A. narrative reading group starting on Monday 9/12. The first book that the group will read and discuss is Maps of Narrative Practice by Michael White.
Date: Mon 9/12
Time 10 - noon (with soup following if you'd like to stay & hang out a bit)
if you are interested in joining the First Monday reading group please shoot Kathie an email, the only criteria is that you have interest and knowledge of narrative practice and are wanting to participate. Please feel free to invite others if they meet the criteria.
We are voices in a chorus that transforms lived life into narrated life, and then returns narrative to life, not in order to reflect life but rather to add something else, not a copy, but a new measure of life; to add, with each new novel, something new, something more, to life - Carlos Fuentes
Well, since I posted the last one I thought I should keep going. Today was a little exercise in figure painting, using a stuffed rabbit. It's not finished, but I'd like to think I'm showing improvement....at least a little.
So I'm going to take a risk here. For several years I've held a desire to paint. I had an art making history but that was all photo based work, secretly I always wanted to paint. I finally decided to do something about it. For the foreseeable future I will be driving up to LA to a painter friends studio for lessons in painting. Yesterday was the first session and I had a chance to do a little painting. It is my thinking that if I put the first one out there, no matter how crappy, it will get me distance from that voice that says "give it up," or "you'll never be any good," and I can just go on enjoying painting and hopefully in the process, get a little more skillful at it. So what you will find below is my first Saturday painting. My tomatoes aren't finished, but I like my lemon! Maybe this risk might inspire someone else to take a risk and do something they've been putting off, even through the rough beginning part. Now I need to get a sketch pad and draw, draw, draw. Enjoy:
Tonight was the first ever Poetry reading at the HB Art Center. Several months back I was at an opening at the center, in conversation with the curator Darlene DeAngelo, when she mentioned that they were interested in different programming for their Late8 series. I selfishly suggested a poetry reading and told her I would pull it together, she was all for it. Tonight it all came together and it went off wonderfully. We had two outstanding poets, Allison Benis White and Collier Nogues, and a very nice crowd for the first event. Many thanks to all who participated and all who came out to support, it was a great reading. Attached are some photos from tonight. I can't wait for the next one!