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About this book

This book provides a guide to narrative theory and practice; a form of therapy which views people as the experts on their own lives. Rooted in the ideas of Michael White and David Epston from the famous Dulwich Centre, it offers a rich source of thinking and techniques for counsellors, psychotherapists, social workers and others working in the people professions.

Based on the author's teaching, practice and research experience, this book provides a bridge between theory and the basic principles and methods of narrative therapy. The book assists the reader in implementing the key ideas and techniques into everyday practice contexts, with the support of real-life case studies and conversation maps. Uniquely, it covers important subjects such as ethics and values, supervision and self-care.

Table of Contents

The Narrative Approach

Frontmatter

1. An Introduction to Narrative Practice

Abstract
I was recently at a social event where a woman seated beside me at dinner asked me what I do. I told her I am a social worker. She asked me a little more, so I explained I am particularly interested in teaching, researching and writing in the area of narrative practice. She then heaved a great sigh and asked me when society’s obsession with narratives had begun. She said that she is constantly hearing people talk about narratives and about being interested in knowing other people’s stories and that she is fed up with it. She appeared to think it all a little ridiculous, as she went on to say she had read lots of novels as a child and so she understood stories to be made up and untrue. As I was dithering about whether to respond to these comments within this setting, the other three women at the table, all of them in different fields, started to describe the way in which they believed stories add richness to our understanding of life. The historian, for instance, said that two different accounts of events in history could have all the same facts included, but the one that presented the events with a greater appreciation of the details of narrative would be far more engaging of people’s interest.
Laura Béres

2. The Conversation Maps

Abstract
David Epston recently reminded me that Michael White often used the analogy of learning how to play jazz when he described the process of learning and developing skills in narrative practices. Epston highlighted an exchange between Michael White and Salvador Minuchin in which Minuchin admonished White for not talking enough about what he actually did in therapy. White responded by explaining that he felt it was more important to teach people how to play scales before they could improvise like a jazz musician. In fact, it would appear as though White spent a great deal of time reflecting on what he was actually doing in his practice so that he could break it down into small steps and make it easier for people to learn. In a way, he was talking about what he did in therapy when he described the conversation maps, although his interactions with people were much more fluid than the maps might initially imply.
Laura Béres

3. Exploring What Has Been Implied

Abstract
During the last training session I attended with Michael White in December 2007, he spoke to all of us present about the fact that he had begun to wish he had stressed much more the importance of ‘the absent but implicit’ in conversations, and that he was further developing and writing about the absent but implicit conversation map. He spoke of how he had realized how useful this concept and map were in assisting people in moving beyond their complaints and frustrations. He suggested that this was possible if the types of questions were asked that allowed people to start to reflect on the values that were underlying their complaints and were implicit in how they were describing their concerns. Since many people begin conversations with social workers and counsellors by complaining about other people or situations in their lives, this absent but implicit conversation can frequently be useful. White spent much of the training week discussing what he meant by ‘absent but implicit’ and having us practise this conversation with one another. Following his death just four months later, his close friends and colleagues took up the challenge and published their suggestions about the steps of an absent but implicit conversation map (Carey, Walther & Russell, 2009).
Laura Béres

4. Moving between the Conversation Maps

Abstract
As I have suggested in earlier chapters, despite having found it extremely useful to learn the steps of the conversation maps in order to begin practising narrative therapy, I am also aware that the maps can initially cause confusion and consternation in some people. Not only have some beginning narrative practitioners struggled with learning the conversation maps without feeling overly controlled by them, many have also expressed confusion about how the conversation maps might fit together in practice and flow from one to another. It has been in response to these types of questions that I have developed a meta map in order to provide an illustration of how the various conversation maps can fit together. It is also important to keep in mind what White (2007a) has suggested regarding the maps: ‘that the boundaries are often blurred’ (p. 250).
Laura Béres

The Narrative Approach in Context

Frontmatter

5. A Narrative Approach to Agency Practice: Note Taking, Assessment Writing and Consultation

Abstract
It has been important to me to attempt to develop methods of practice that are consistent with my personal and professional values and worldview, moving towards congruence between my direct practice methods and my conduct in agency-based interactions and teaching. This may sound simple and straightforward. What I have found, however, is that just as people learning narrative skills in direct practice may find that they need to let go of some of their other ways of working to develop narrative interactions fully, it is necessary to reflect on the taken-for-granted approaches to note taking, assessment writing and working with colleagues and students. This is in order to be able to consider more thoughtfully the politics and assumptions underlying mainstream methods of writing and consulting, for instance, and to make choices about how otherwise to write, supervise or teach so that we do not totalize or pathologize people, or privilege our expertise over others’ experiences.
Laura Béres

6. Critical Reflection as Inquiry and Practice-Based Evidence

Abstract
I became interested in both critical theory and narrative practice at the same time. This came about partly as a result of beginning my doctoral research in a critical pedagogy and cultural studies specialization, after my research interest had developed from reflecting on practice. It was while I was pursuing my doctoral work that I first read Schön (1983) and Fook (1999,2000) and recognized the value of their approaches to reflecting on practice for the further development of practice theory and knowledge. As I was reading Giroux and Simon (1989), hooks (1994) and Freire (1970) in the area of critical pedagogy, I began to recognize the influences of critical social theory across the fields of education and social work. At the same time, I was becoming fascinated by the post-modern and post-structural elements of narrative practice and later realized the commonalities within both narrative practice and Fook’s approach to critical reflection of practice, partly because of these elements. Fook, in an interview presented in Béres, Bowles and Fook (2011), clarifies why it is that critical reflection looks so similar to narrative practice, saying that it is because both draw on the same broader theories and approaches: The ideas of Foucault, for instance, have been used by many different disciplines and in different ways and have gotten filtered into those disciplines in a way that they think they are separate kinds of things, but in fact a lot of the socially based disciplines use particular theories anyway. So all I’ve done with critical reflection is taken it and theorized it a bit further, using post-modern and post-structural ideas and grafted them on to Brookfield. So my version of critical reflection just happens to use some Foucault, which makes it look like narrative therapy, but I also use Brookfield which makes it look like education. (Béres, Bowles & Fook, 2011, pp. 85–6)
Laura Béres

7. Spirituality and Narrative Practice: Listening for the ‘Little Sacraments of Daily Existence’

Abstract
I recently had the opportunity to meet with social workers, nurse practitioners, doctors and counsellors in the United Kingdom at the British Association for Studies in Spirituality conference (2012). Many of the practitioners, academics and researchers were raising questions about how to address issues of spirituality competently in direct practice with people. Only a month later I attended a similar gathering of delegates at a joint Canadian and American Associations of Social Work and Spirituality conference (2012). The social workers at the second conference were reflecting on the manner in which their interests in spirituality seemed to position them somewhat in the margins of mainstream social work, despite the growing interest in spirituality in social work over the past 10 years. They also were considering how best to integrate spirituality into practice, with a range of approaches being considered. As Holloway (2007) points out, ‘the evidence base is growing for the significance for large numbers of people of a dimension which they term “spiritual”, and a set of issues whose existential source remains untouched by standard psycho-social therapeutic techniques’ (p. 275). She points out that despite the fact that the majority of social work professionals may be less religious and spiritual than the general public, it behoves us to be able to work sensitively with people who have religious and spiritual beliefs. This is an element of culturally sensitive practice.
Laura Béres

8. Notes on Self-Care and the Ongoing Effects of Working as a Narrative Practitioner

Abstract
Foucault, in describing ‘the hermeneutic of the subject’, points out that as far back as the 400s BCE, philosophers were reflecting on the fact that we must take care of ourselves if we are meant also to attend to others (1994, p. 96). The notion of self-care is often suggested to people working within social and health services; we are told that we need to model appropriate self-care and boundary-setting to people receiving services, and also that we need to look after ourselves so that we do not ‘burn out’, become worn out or sick and therefore unable to continue caring for others. A continuum of possible negative effects of working in direct services is thought to range from feeling a little fed up and relieved when someone cancels an appointment all the way to vicarious trauma and the need for extended stress leave (Patsiopoulos & Buchanan, 2011; Rothschild, 2006).
Laura Béres
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