|—||On “uncreative writing”|
Narrative ideas are often promoted with promise of respectful, collaborative, multistoried, non-colonizing practice. Yet, precisely through a promise not to colonize, Narrative Therapy can achieve a normalizing and colonizing re-invigoration of familiar and abusive social beliefs (Fisher, 2005, 2008). This complexity is particularly present within the DVI field, where the “problems” are largely predetermined through a singular analysis of “dominant masculinity” and “gender power” (Fisher, 2012).
It's that whole singular analysis thing..
As part of a 2-day Advanced Training presented in partnership by Southern California Counseling Center and the Association of Batterers Intervention Programs, renowned Canadian Narrative Therapist Art Fisher, who focuses on community conversations about violence, returns to Los Angeles. He will be here all day on Friday, March 22, at a location to be determined soon. For all the details contact the SCCC. I hope to see you there. Some more info:
In Art Fisher’s work in the DVI sector, which includes a wealth of on-going, front-line
practice experience in the field, together with youths, adults, and diverse families, he has
become passionate about several issues, including:
• Citizen-Focused practice that investigates all operations of social power,
including our own
• Trauma-Informed responses to violence
• Transdisciplinary collaboration among workers, youths, adults and families
• Imbedded “Intervention”, situated within an intensively Preventative, Community
Using examples from Art’s work as well as the work of participants, the workshop will
offer collaborative, large group and small group practice explorations, around translating
these issues into everyday practice, within assessment, consulting conversations, team
work, peer supervision, community conversations, and anti-violence education. The
ongoing translation of these issues into practice within the non-profit Art Fisher directs
www.alternativesinstitute.com has significantly reduced stigma, and generated statistical
shifts in the past thirteen years from 1% voluntary community DVI participation to 60-
70% voluntary participation, and from annual rates of 30 referrals to 370-400 referrals.
"Rise of the storytelling sites: 2013 should be an interesting year for online narrative, with Ev Williams’ Medium asking members to post around a prompt and Jonathan Harris’ open-ended Cowbird. One of Cowbird’s many features is the “retelling” — similar to reblogging on Tumblr — and a “serendipity” option that encourages those in the site to wander. News sites haven’t nailed integrating readers’ emotional response to stories yet, so storytelling is the new geo- and may be layered on, then integrated, then ultimately no longer a feature in a few years" - Kristen Taylor
Yesterday I received an email from Dr. Andrew Cashin who resides and works in Australia. I had first contacted Dr. Cashin a couple of years ago when I found myself tasked to work with a young boy whom had been diagnosed with Autism. I immediately went searching for articles or sources for how to work from a narrative approach with people diagnosed with Autism. I found only one article and it was Dr. Cashin's. I used his article as a guide for my work and found it to be quite successful. The mother of the child was quite pleased with the work we did together and toward the end of our time together (they moved) told me that my client "had his best IEP meeting ever." After that I reached out to Dr. Cashin to ask him if he knew of other sources for my work and he was quite helpful and told me that they were starting some new work and that he would keep me informed.
Yesterday in his email he sent a new article that he authored with Graeme Browne, Joanne Bradbury, and Ann Mulde that was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing titled The Effectiveness of Narrative Therapy With Young People With Autism. The aim of this pilot study was to be the first step toward empirically determining whether narrative therapy is effective in helping young people with autism who present with emotional and behavioral problems. Being a pilot study the authors used a convenience sample of 10 young people with autism (10–16 years) to evaluate the effectiveness of five 1 hr sessions of narrative therapy conducted over 10 weeks. In the study the primary outcome measure was the parent-rated Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) but the study also used as secondary measures the Kessler-10 Scale of Psychological Distress (K-10), the Beck Hopelessness Scale, and a stress biomarker, the salivary cortisol to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) ratio.
Well guess what he results were? Significant improvement in psychological distress identified through the K-10 was demonstrated. Significant improvement was identified on the Emotional Symptoms Scale of the SDQ. The cortisol:DHEA ratio was responsive and a power analysis indicated that further study is indicated with a larger sample. Leading to the conclusion Narrative therapy has merit as an intervention with young people with autism and of course further research is indicated.
No matter where you fall on the narrative therapy and research question there are some realities to doing the work we do in North America, evidence based practice is king. However there is some hope for those that want to continue to practice narrative therapy in certain settings. There's John Stillman in Minnesota and his work with the Veterans Administration researching narrative therapy and trauma and now Dr. Cashin and his fellow authors providing promising results with narrative therapy and autism. Who knows, with me starting a PhD program next month, I might throw my name into that research hat as well.
In recent decades, both postmodern and feminist perspectives have had a significant impact on the family therapy field (Moules, 2000; Osmond & Thorne, 1993; Sanders, 1998). These two broad philosophical positions have engendered an intriguing set of challenges and opportunities for proponents of both ideologies. On the one hand, the assumptions embedded within these positions overlap and support each other in combating the patriarchal, hierarchical, oppressive modes of thinking about and working with families. On the other hand, they have also taken divergent, sometimes antagonistic, paths. For example, the feminist agenda propagates an activist clinical stance on issues related to gender, whereas postmodernists caution about the relativity of our so-called “Truths” and the potentially adverse impact of imposing our values on clients.
- I have no interest in trafficking in this trade.
- If I am consulting with a person who prefers to use such labels, then I am interested in honoring what they experience this to be doing for them, and I am interested in actively exploring with them what speaking in this way makes possible.
via Hedtke & Winslade
- I have not taken a position on the so-called anti-psychotic medications.
- I have witnessed drugs being used in ways that have a profound effect in opening up horizons in peoples lives.
- I have also witnessed drugs being used in ways that are primarily for purposes of social control.
Via Hedtke & Winslade
This is a reminder that the next event in the narrative and pizza series
takes place this coming Friday, Dec 7, 6pm to 8pm at CSU San Bernardino.
The seminar will be led by Dr John Winslade and Dr Lorraine Hedtke and the focus will be on:
SIDESTEPPING PATHOLOGIZING LANGUAGE
Practices of diagnosis in medicine, education and pyschology have often produced descriptions of people that are designed to help people but often have a totalizing effect. The problem is that, like drugs, pathologizing also has side effects that can impact on a person’s identity. Narrative practice offers some creative ways to help people separate from these side effects and takes account of the power that resides in language. We shall explore some of these and make them practical.
Please see the attached flyer for more details.
The seminar is open to students, staff, faculty, alumni, community supervisors, friends and relatives, and anyone else interested. All are welcome!!!
As usual a small donation will help cover the cost of the pizza.
These last few days my in-box has been blowing up with notifications of several narrative therapy training opportunities, so I thought I would try and put a list together of various North American sites where quality training can be found.
Of course I have to start with the Narrative Project of Orange County. If you are in southern California and would like to participate in a narrative consultation group, or have one of us from the Project come to your agency or practice and do a workshop or presentation, please let me know.
If you would like to catch some fall color this October Peggy Sax's Re-authoring Teaching will be hosting David Epston in beautiful Shelburne Vermont. Re-authoring teaching also offers a Narrative Practice & Collaborative Inquiry online study group.
If you're interested in a little warmer climate Jill Freedman & Gene Combs are offering an Advanced Intensive in Tuscany, Italy. The Evanston Family Therapy Center located outside of Chicago also offers year long and various one day workshops.
Also in Minnesota is the Casperson Training Center headed up by John Stillman whom I had a chance to hear give a talk about his work measuring the effectiveness of narrative therapy with military veterans at the most recent AFTA Conference. John's up to some really exciting things out there in the cold.
If you happen to be in the south or mid-atlantic area Paul Gallant from the Narrative Therapy Institute will be offering upcoming workshops in Maryland and South Carolina.
Now moving to the great white north, or Canada, the The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre is really stepping up their training program and are now offering many training opportunities in the great city of Toronto. The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre is also involved in putting on next March's Conversation-Fest in Texas.
And of course there's Stephan Madigan's Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy where I've attended advanced training. This fall Madigan is offering several workshops and supervision groups in my favourite Canadian city. The next narrative therapy conference TC 11 will be held in May, mark your calendars.
If I forgot anybody please let me know and I will be happy to add your program.
Our practical perceptions are narratively guided because they are organized around a set of practical concerns: identifying the on-going social dramas in which we find ourselves, searching for an appropriate place in those dramas, and so far as we can, attempting to direct them in desirable directions. Our attempts to both locate ourselves accurately in a larger social story, and to steer that social story (or our place in it) in desirable ways, generates obstacles, surprises, the on-going suspense that characterizes much of life experinece. Hope, in other words, is a narrative thing.
Where does the hopeful therapeutic plot come from? Rarely does it emerge from the particular events of therapy. these are, often enough, trivial, difficult, and mundane, taken in themselves. What gives therapeutic events significance are their connections to life plots, the extent to which they open onto much broader narrative vistas which lead far beyond therapy. Effective therapy must successfully address the question of why someone should care to engage in activities and exercises which are routinely dull or painful. A therapeutic plot only seduces to the extent that it emerges as an episode in an unfolding life story, gives some hope for a life that is still to be lived. Even therapy directed to the dying must offer something desirable for a future, a better ending to a life or a gift to pass along to those who remain.
Cheryl Mattingly in Healing dramas and clinical plots: The narrative structure of experience. Cambridge University Press, 1998, p 70.
Via Gene Combs' blog
My first exposure to Michel Foucault’s work was a discussion of the omnipresent panopticon, a sort of always watching big brother that turned us into ‘subjects,’ and even had us working against ourselves in a myriad of ways. This first brush with Michel Foucault’s panopticon happened in the beginning of my narrative therapy training. It was then that I began to consider to myself how might one get out from under this syrupy thick description of power? In these beginning discussions of Foucault and in many discussions after, with more experienced narrative therapists, there was no clear consensus of what resistance might look like under such a totalizing description of power. In light of this view of power, I considered the game over, as was my hope of mustering any kind of resistance to this punitive power, or providing any sense of agency to those who I might work with in the future. I continued on with my narrative therapy training in the nagging shadow of Foucault and his panopticon, getting around my unanswered questions by going underground with my dissatisfaction with Foucault, and basically abandoning Foucault’s ideas around punitive power. I was never quite sure what to do with this highly influential theorist.
I have since discovered that I am not alone in this reading of the midcareer work of Michel Foucault. Don’t believe me? Ask the nearest narrative therapist to explain to you, if power is everywhere according to Foucault, how can we account for any resistance or agency? This nagging question of resistance is one of several Foucault criticisms Jeffrey Nealon’s book Foucault Beyond Foucault tries to reread and clarify in an effort to show how the critical consensus on Foucault got it wrong. Nealon also argues that Foucault is as relevant today as he ever was and presents the narrative practioner, such as myself, a rethinking of Foucault’s midcareer work, late work, and how Foucault’s often misunderstood writings on Biopower and its machinations can be quite relevant to the contemporary narrative therapist’s practice.
Nealon starts the book laying out the historical development and dominant criticism of Foucault. He summarizes the trajectory of Foucault’s work from the early neostructuralist Foucault; the middle “power” Foucault; to Foucault’s late work where his concern was life as a work of art. In Foucault Beyond Foucault Nealon is most interested in revisiting Foucault’s midcareer work and taking on the dominant criticism of Foucault’s work on power as a dead-end with no possibility for any subjective or collective resistance, too totalizing and too demoralizing. Nealon is also interested in Foucault’s late work on biopower and governmantality. Nealon argues that Foucault has much to teach us about the power, and resistance, that saturate our present.
One of Nealon’s main projects in Foucault Beyond Foucault is to attempt to correct what he believes is a misread of Foucault’s late work, summarized as artistic self-creation as resistance. Nealon argues that because so much of present day counter culture has become wholly normative--get a tattoo and “normative power” will shudder--and has morphed into a kind of liberal individualism, or ‘endless, fetishized self-creation.’ Nealon argues that rather than performing its totalizing work through a cultural standardization or repression, discipline now performs its work through the imperative to become resistant to the government, the “man,” or the herd.
It is here that Nealon takes up Foucault’s little understood writings on biopower and attempts to map the trajectory of sovereign power, to the increased intensity of present day biopower. Nealon argues that contemporary biopower is less interested in regulating behavior through panoptic, institutionally based training exercises, and is more interested in targeting life and lifestyles. Nealon makes his case by mapping how biopower’s punitive discourse tracks the subject, whereas traditional disciplinary power is more interested in the act. Nealon believes it is here that biopower steps out of the general formula for disciplinary power and becomes “lighter” and acquires more intense tactics. Nealon describes this as power moving from policing the act to policing the norm. It was here that I found myself wondering if Nealon has replaced one totalizing description of power with another, where could resistance be found when power has become “lighter” and more intense, attacking our very lives.
But what if people are freer than they think they are? – Jeffrey Nealon
In Foucault Beyond Foucault Jeffrey Nealon argues that in Foucault’s work “there’s quite literally nothing but agency,” and believes that the question of agency that often circulates around Foucault’s work is actually a question of “authenticity.” Nealon describes Foucault’s critics as looking for some kind of space that sits outside the workings of power for any kind of resistance that is not an effect of power. Nealon believes there is no need for this space because Foucault is quite clear that there would be no power “relation” without resistance, or the possibility of resistance.
It is here on the chapter on resistance that Nealon makes his strongest statement regarding the dominant critique of Foucault and takes on critics of ideology and the neohumanist political theorists. Nealon imagines that proclaiming “resistance is everywhere” is more damaging than “domination is everywhere” because if people are freer than they think they are, and do not need to be shown the way out, the jobs of pointing out oppression, giving voice to the people, or guiding the oppressed toward freedom would no longer be secure. So Nealon believes the question we should be concerned with is not how to mine and recover resistance from totalized power, but how to mobilize, focus, or intensify practices of resistance already in place. Nealon believes this effort can be best accomplished through what Foucault called subjugated knowledges, or knowledges from below.
Nealon wraps up the book, and his argument on resistance and agency, by insisting that to continue to story resistance as scarce is both expensive and disenabling. Nealon is clear in his belief that most people know their way around power and resistance in their own contexts and to believe the opposite is condescending.
Implications For Practice
At the time of this writing the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose energy captured North America’s attention for several months, is beginning to wane. Is the Occupy Wall Street movement’s 99% versus the 1% just a re-branding of the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie, therefore doomed to failure? Also at the time of this writing the world anxiously awaits to see what the outcome may be of the Arab Spring that restructured several governments in 2011. Will there be “real democracy” in the Middle East, or as The Who famously sings, “here’s to the new boss, same as the old boss.” Are both of these movements failed attempts of resistance to sovereign power in an age of biopower?
Narrative therapists are adept at attending to the sociopolitical in their work. Knowledgeable in gender politics, feminism, queer theory, race and privilege. But if power is restructuring, as human networks have restructured since Foucault’s death in 1984, what are the ethical implications of justice doing in our work in contemporary times? How do we as narrative therapists not fall victim to what Bruno LaTour calls ‘instant sociology’ and position those who seek are help in an us versus them strategy against power, which Nealon claims is a failed tactic for contemporary times.
In the effort of justice-doing do we lead those that seek our help into having to make a decision between ideas born out of the dominant culture, or align themselves with the counter culture. Leaving them with little room to decide for themselves how they might blend all possibilities that might be available to them. Potentially leaving those who seek are help with the feeling that they are “doing it wrong” and therefor colluding with biopower even in our efforts to help. Nealon believes this type of project, holdovers from sovereign understandings of power, can often be a stopping point of “moral condemnation or judgment rather than an ethical provocation or map.”
In the end, Nealon believes it is best meet a problem or problems outside ‘the economies of representation, assured failure, moralizing judgment, and meaning. Nealon believes that resistance is an essential fact of our everyday struggle with power and that in this struggle; new strategies and weapons are born. So what can narrative therapy gleam from this new understanding of how power is restructuring in contemporary times? I think Foucault himself can provide the map:
I concern myself with determining problems, unleashing them, revealing them within the framework of such complexity as to shut the mouths of prophets and legislators: all those who speak for others and above others. It is that moment that the complexity of the problem will be able to appear in its connection with people’s lives; and consequently, the legitimacy of a common enterprise will be able to appear through concrete questions, difficult cases, revolutionary movements, reflections, and evidence…It is all a social enterprise. (Nealon, 2008)
I can think of no more solid and hopeful argument for the practice that is narrative therapy, and the experience near approach of our practice.
My dissertation offers an appreciative critique of post-structuralist theory, and especially the narrative therapy ideas and practices most often associated with Michael White, with a view towards moving beyond Foucault, as David Epston has recently proposed (Epston, 2011, pp.xxxiv-xxxv). This section of the dissertation also highlights White’s own attention to the place of the sacred within therapeutic practice, and wonders where White’s work in this domain may have evolved had he not died. - Colin Sanders
I look forward to reading Colin Sanders Taos Institute dissertation when it's completed.
I've fallen into this trap more times than I'd like to admit...
When therapists do assume primary authorship in (peoples stories), it is common for them to enter into a "convincing mode" in which their responses are primarily limited to giving affirmations, pointing out positives, and making attempts at reframing. - Michael White
I attended a workshop in the past where David Epston, one of the co-creators of narrative therapy, told a story about how when he was training in family therapy he would be asked to provide transcripts of hour long sessions and if during those hour long sessions he had asked more than three questions, he had failed his therapeutic task. Our field has a long history of misunderstanding toward the art of inquiry in therapeutic conversations.
Eventually inquiry did become a more accepted means in therapeutic conversations but some questions still remained off-limits, the most predominate being the "why" question. In Michael White's seminal book Maps of Narrative Practice he explains that this may be due to the fact that "why" questions have traditionally been used as a form of moral interrogation which can be diminishing and demeaning of others. For example: Why did you do this? Why would you think such a thing? etc.
However, White believes "why" questions to be quite beneficial in giving voice to and developing intentional understandings about life including, purposes, aspirations, goals, quests, and commitments. White also believed "why" questions can help people develop more positive identity conclusions seperate of how any particular problem may be trying to define their lives. A possible example would be to ask someone "why" they are not OK with the effects of a particular problem in their life, leading to a richer conversation of what values might be sitting underneath those effects.
White is also clear that because it is rare for people to be invited to reflect on their lives in ways that allow them to have a say in what they value or what certain events might be important to them, "why" questions could be unfamiliar and an "I don't know" response can often be expected. White believes in this case it can be helpful to provide an account of how others have responded to "why" questions, for example: "A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with someone and had asked her why she was so dissatisfied with this similar predicament in her life, she said that ____. Would this description fit for you, or something entirely different?"
I too am a proponent of the "why" question and have found them quite helpful in my own practice. It is my experience that justification "why" questions go a long way toward uncovering and discovering people's understandings of what they value, their knowledge of life, their hopes and dreams, and their own lived experience. All of this leading to richer story development, and more positive identity conclusions.
If you don't believe that [a counselee's] dificulties are social and personal constructions, then you wont be seeing these transfomations. Inevitably, many therapists will ignore the heart of narrative therapy, its fierce belief in people's possibilities for change and the profound effects of conversation, language and stories on both therapist and client. This is the heart of the theory. It's not a set of techniques to use to change counselees....If we collapse what we are doing into techniques--and they are easy to learn, so this is a risk--we may do harm. - Christie Cozad Neuger