We have been asked as a part of the Narrative Practices Adelaide certificate group to bring some questions from our readings and reflections on externalising conversations to the wider forum.
Looking back at my reflection on the influence externalising conversation has on the formation of the support relationship, I am left wondering how we maintain the balance of power that exists between the ourselves as ‘professionals’ and those we support who undeniably hold the expertises of their experience. I agree with Maggie’s comment that my intention to balance the power of the working relationship is “…an ethic that is held… that is about creating possibilities for the people who consult you to experience a sense of agency in their lives and to go about this in a spirit of collaboration. People having the chance to make choices in their lives…”
I think this intention of maintaining a balance of power and space for people’s agency relates to our position as workers who are ‘de-centred and influential’, though, I am wondering how we maintain this position when ethically we have a duty to challenge instances of exploitation or shine a light on effects of the problem that people hold onto, which lead them to future hurt and disadvantage? How do we do this and remain de-centred because I am looking at this effects and situations from my values, experiences and hopes for people’s future?
From our first workshop, I remember Maggie saying that Narrative Therapy encourages people to learn new skills and know-how and I feel this is key to the work I do with young people so they have new ways to respond to the difficulties in their life. However, in practice, I’m wondering how these new skills and knowledge are introduced? I believe you don’t know what you don’t know so how do young people and their families become to learn these new skills? If am to introduce new strategies or ways of planning things out, am I not moving away from the de-centred position and imposing my ideas to their story?
To add some context as well, my role is not solely therapeutic or councillor based, my role of ‘youth and family worker’ has be out there in people homes working through the practical day to day tasks like budgeting, studying, cooking, accessing services as well as individual and family relationship counselling. So I’m wondering if the reflective space of narrative is relevant to these other aspects of my work…?
What do you think collaboratory???
I think the reflective space of narrative is very useful in practical matters. Io name a simple example: i have to encourage people to drink more water every day. If I simply Teach this “Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day” I dont think i’ve acheived anyting. Should i not rather be asking whether they do drink water, if so, where they might get their water from, hwhether they have to walk to get water, how do they make sure the water htey collect is drinkable, what does drinking water mean to them, What es do they need to use their water for, how could they best ensure that they increase their water intake, etc etc?
Margaret Wells: April 18, 2011
I think it’s a hard space. Is it about offering ideas as invitations, tentative offerings, not imposing? Is it about remaining curious and the stance of apprentice, ready to learn what ideas you offer may be accepted and how and which ones may be taken up by those we work with? Does it have something to do with drawing on the wisdoms of others (outsider witness) and sharing those ideas? Not sure and would love to hear what others think. Nice to read your enquiry, thanks.
Thanks so much for your thoughts.
Jo, the example you used really illustrates the versatility of the narrative framework and I can see reflections of this in my practice and Margaret, I can see how the elements you’ve named are relevant and show how the way I approach something sets up space for narrative ways of enquiry.
Your comments have me curious about a family I work with where health, food and low income work together to play tricks on family members, which then has conflict happening. I’m now wondering about their knowledge of ‘healthy’ food, what elements they consider when they plan a meal, where/who they learnt this from, what their intentions are for eating/sharing meals as a family and what it means for them to have ‘healthy’ choices available and where there are things that get in the way of this being possible. I’m also wondering if they notice any effects of their food choices because they’ve identified with me as we’ve worked together that poor health is a big factor in missing school or having less tolerance for the difficulties they face = “the pissed off angry thing” for the young man and the “smother mother”.
I’m wondering though, if there is knowledge here that has negative effects, what is the way to introduce new information? Is it about asking whether they’d like to learn more and then work with them to find the information elsewhere? I suppose I could ask if they have other connections they can draw on to learn from as well. Or is this about coming back to the evaluation of where it’s an ok/not ok/both and then keep working with them on what the effects of this not so good knowledge has on their hopes and dreams.
Hmmm, it feels like it is becoming clearer as I type this out to you all. Perhaps my concern about applying this is more about the competing elements to the work I do and that in people’s homes sometimes, where there are multiple people being supported by the worker, it can be hard to hold people’s attention for the time these conversation take, though I’m most willing to keep on bring this approach even if it’s for the short time available.
Would love to hear what you think…
Hi Cate, Hi All,
I think it is a really interesting and probably a less explored topic: how to introduce new information or ‘other knowledges’. This can vary so greatly between practitioners from being “educative” and teaching to being not at all – just reflective.
For myself I take a very collaborative approach and learn with the client. I had a 16 year old client recently “lily” and in a session I had given her the address and contact number for Accommodation Services. But she was so nervous and unsure, that she said in the next session that she walked around the city but couldn’t find the places. Since I had time – it was going into my lunch time – I asked Would it help if we take a walk together and find the places? She said yep, so we went on a walk and found the services in the city, and I even sat with her in the intake. It was a great opportunity for me to learn what was out there go through this experience together with her, struggling with that gap between Client Need and Service Provision. We were able to chat on the way, and during this chat after our experience with the services I was able to ask Lily some questions that came from my reflection – like did she think she would feel ok about looking for accommodation in areas of the city she is unfamiliar with and are out of her familiarity zone… and stuff like this. It was a really great experience for both of us.
The other service that I cant recommend enough are the Financial Counsellors – they have bandwidth to give out that practical info – I think therapeutic counsellors and financial counsellors should work closer together. I constantly walk my clients downstairs to book into free financial counsellors and they walk their clients up to me.
Also there is the New Zealand therapy movement Just Therapy https://www.familycentre.org.nz/Areas_of_Work/Family_Therapy/index.html?PHPSESSID=4674b0e9 and a really good paper cautioning doing therapy with families in poverty or in practical need by Waldegrave. This might interest you.
These are just my personal way of working with some clients and addressing some of these issues, i am not sure if it is within therapy but it feels appropriate, ethical and influential at the time. I am transparent and clear about limits that I will go to with clients so “my power to influence” is not ambiguous and taken advantage of.
It may not feel right for others. Is that helpful at all??
you’ve completely described a standard day in my role with regards to collaborative work with young people and family members! This ‘learning alongside people’ and exploring new services, info, experiences etc is something that I think is in every interaction I have with people. My intension with this approach is for the person to walk away feeing like they discovered something today & that this learning isn’t that I hold all the answers because I certainly don’t want the pressure of needing to make all the decisions I do hope, however, that people experience a sense of support and positive, respectful connection to another human being and their wider community.
I agree with the usefulness of financial counsellors and have accessed this service before and thanks for the link to the other site, i’ll see what I can find out.
to add to my response from before, I’ve just been reading about ‘collaborative enquiry’ here: https://reauthoringteaching.com/community/index.php?topic=728.0 and I think that the quotes Peggy listed from the books match our conversation here…:
this really resonates with how I see my position as ‘helper’:
“…Essential to the interviewer’s stance is being fully present, open about his or her own purposes, respectful of the shared and separate purposes of their conversation, and possessed of the readiness to lead by following while respecting and fostering the interviewee’s sense of his or her agency in the process.”
this section below also matches the way my organisation values opportunities to support positive connections in people’s lives, which links to our relationship building framework:
“The enactment of preferred lives can be powerfully enhanced with the development of communities of support that can serve as appreciative audiences for change.”
what do others think? Cate
Daniel Marjason (April 19, 2011)
Finding ways to access and extend client skills hopes and dreams.
Cate, I am thinking that there are some lovely things to look out for when consulting people. Even if you are wandering down the street on the way to some service with a young person you may be finding out openings to preferred stories. You may be hearing a tale of despair about some problem that has a hold on the life of this young person but your ear is open to noting some small detail that does not fit with that problem. For example. The client may mention some meal they have cooked on the way to the service. You might ask about the meal. “What was it?” It may have been pasta. “Where did you learn to do that?” “From my mother, who’s Italian.” “Italian? Wow, I like Italian, I can remember a time when Australians ate only chops and three veg and garlic was for …., well it was seen as European food.” “Can you tell me more about this cooking Italian?”….. And so you can not only make rich a skill that a client has, walking along the street, but you can start to source (sauce) the history of that skill, i.e. , her /his mother and her/his mother’s culture from afar. And so the pasta is connecting the client with a rich vein of culture and knowledge. Maybe you could go to an Italian shop, a deli, to meet with grandma for more knowledge, to connect the community of the client with her/his aim of developing skills. “Is there anyone you can think of who has the skills you are interested in?” “Is there any area of knowledge you would be interested in developing?” “What do you think you will need to approach this interview?” “Would you be interested in connecting people and resources to be more in touch with what you think you should know?” “Can we talk about this.” In this way the decentering is still there. You are alongside the client exploring how to develop skills. You are developing the meta skills of how to get knowledge and skills. You may want to apply for a grant! You are also mining the client’s knowledge base and interests no matter how small.
Also, if you ask about the exception, the alternate story, the subordinated story, for example, “Are there times when you are able to cook yourself something that’s OK?” “Have you ever been able to look after yourself in the kitchen?” “What would looking after yourself in the kitchen look like?” “Well, have you ever seen any people who have cooking skills?” “yeah, where?” “In the Lebanese shop in Gauger Street?” “Vegetarian.” “Lots of green things?” “So how come these things stand out for you?” “How come this food stands out and what is it about vegetarian?” “What made you interested in that?” “Your grandmamma?” “Tell me about her?” “Can you tell me more about her?” “Would you be interested in meeting with her?” “And so it was your grandma who as kind of there for you and who passed on these values about greens.” Dan
thanks so much for your thoughts on my question. your insight certainly helps to point out how the narrative approach opens so many doors to exploring how we know and do what we go about knowing and doing every day. it’s also so interesting to see how the elements of outsider witness and having an audience or introducing new relationships into people’s lives is a wonderful ways to build new skills and knowledge that thicken their preferred stories for life.
hope to chat soon about even more discoveries of the narrative kind
Hi Cate and all,
I just wanted to add another thing. I was thinking of how the alternate story also can open up therapeutic skills, so called, that the client may already have. I am thinking of clients who may be in the grip of anxiety, or ‘sick in the tummy’ and they are looking up at you with all the misery they can muster as the adults are desperately trying to get them into class while not further terrifying them. I remember one little girl about 7 or 8 who was in this spot. You might be tempted to quickly learn a desensitisation program regime and how it works but, if you can hold your nerve, I found that narrative can apply in finding client knowledge even in a crisis. In fact often in a crisis you can drop right into a narrative frame. You can ask after a time, does this ‘sick in the tummy always stay at this level of upsetting you?’ “Oh it’s less after recess why is that?” “Because you are busy doing work.” “And did I here you say that sick in the tummy is not able to get a hold when you are doing homework?” “Did I hear you say you like doing homework?” “Did I really hear you saying that?” “Well, does that give you any ideas for what you could do when you want sick in the tummy to go away?” “Yeah, homework.” “So if sick in the tummy is in charge before school, when you are having breakfast, what could you do?” “Yeah, it sounds like it’s worth trying to have some homework with your breakfast!” And she did and sick in the tummy wasn’t able to gain a hold before school.
thanks dan, this reminder couldn’t be more timely, i’m going to a home before school to see what’s happening for a young man (15) that is refusing to come to school. I’ve done this type of enquiry before i’m just really curious about this instance of ‘refusal’ because I’m not sure that there’s been a discovery together yet of what really is the causing this refusal or perhaps protest. I’m not actually sure that the young man sees not attending school as a problem at all, though mum sure does and it’s impacting on her hopes for living so maybe some outsider witness investigation could be useful too…
Barbara Harris, June 14, 2011
Hi Dan & Cate,
Thanks for sharing your experiences and putting it more into context – many different levels and terms to many different stories
I have been looking for these opportunities in my work and had assisted a client to take part in her brother`s wedding
My focus was to have some private quiet time and focus on the skills she already had and this became a journey of self discovery for both of us. The things I do and take for granted and what the cleint was able to achieve – looked absolutely beautiful in her first long dress ever and make over- walked 15 metres unaided and stood still for 15 minutes with the biggest smile I have ever seen.
Our discussions involved the client sharing that she spent a lot of time tinkering in the shed with her brother and deceased father when she was younger – she did this without her walking stick and was always closest to them than her sister and mother.
Ditching the walking stick for this memorable moment was really her idea and not mine –
The past needs to be brought into the picture so that we can frame the magical moments
Well she has her brothers wedding photos as a testament to her accomplishments and new self and feeling liberated
Keep the discoveries coming in much appreciation
Hi Barbara – I know that you work with clients who are less abled than most of us. What struck me about your description of your client and her endeavor to “ditch her walking stick” was that it was all about her possibilities and her ideas and her capabilities.
This is so different to when I sometimes introduce a client- I have been guilty of doing it in an already labeled way – a medicalized description of the person through their problems. Your description of your client so wonderfully contained none of those disabling labels. I think that this in itself is very de-centered. It also gives us a positive appreciation of your client as a self agent in her own life rather than a problematized objectified person that needs to be “fixed”.
Thank you for sharing this with us in such a fresh way – I will be looking forward to more stories of your able clients…
Thank you for an inspiring conversation. As I read your posts I became aware of how broad and encompassing the position of de-centred and influential could be for me in its many links to the ‘ethics of collaboration”, “co-research” and of course it’s implications for the politics of power in many helping relationships. Your posts brought into focus for me an area of enquiry that I’ve been struggling with over the last few weeks i.e. how to position myself in conversations with my work colleagues about problems or dilemmas in regards to young people and carers with whom we work.
Maybe, this post sits more truly with the topic “the ethics of collaboration”, or probably more appropriately under “narrative supervision”. However, as I read your posts much of what was written resonated for me with the question I posed above.
Recently I was asked by my supervisor whether I might be able to assume a new role in our team and take the opportunity to share knowledge(s) about our work with all of my immediate colleagues, commenting that until now only she and not the rest of the team have known about the work that I’ve done. This has become an interesting and challenging request for me as I’m known for my passion and enthusiasm about the engagement with and employing new knowledges in our field. However, I find that I must take care to manage any enthusiasm I have in sharing ideas and knowledges in relation to the people that we work with, an enthusiasm that stems from many years of varied experience in my field, but that is now joined by a newly reclaimed passion for capturing and engaging with the therapeutic and narrative possibilities of our work.
I’m curious about the experience of other’s in this area. It’s clear to me that as a social worker, as well as a person interested in the application of Narrative Practice in my area of work, that our practices are not just limited to those people “out there” who we engage with as representatives of an agency or service, but should also be enacted with our colleagues as well. How do you engage with your work colleagues about the ideas and principles of Narrative Practice and in ways that might speak to the areas that we’ve discussed above i.e. “creating possibilities for the people to experience a sense of agency… and to go about this in a spirit of collaboration”, while also being mindful of the politics of power that can occur an organization or team as they might be affected by factors like age, gender, years of service and/or experience or educational background, to name but a few?
it feels like forever since i’ve been online in this reflective space but i’m now here back from a week and a half’s holiday camping by the beach near fraser island and then up in the bunya mountains and have enjoyed so much reading where how this conversation’s developed.
Barbara, thank you so much for sharing the accomplishment of the woman you work with to be there at her brother’s wedding. Reading your post, I felt the warmth of her smile beaming back at us, proving once again as she had in the shed that she can stand alongside her brother, an important and special person in her story. I’d love to hear what her father would say about the outcome of ‘ditching the walking stick’ and i wonder if his ‘outsider witness’ position would offer any other ‘magical moments’ to remember.
Tim, thanks for sharing your thoughts too, i agree that this position of de-centred and influential is ‘broad and encompassing’ and something that i keep checking back into when reflecting of pieces of work.
Regarding your question re: how to positioning ourselves with colleagues, this too is something i’m pondering because people are curious about my studies and ask on my return from adelaide trips how it was, what i learnt and how it fits in to what we do. as a team that uses collaboration, one of the approaches we’ve taken to ‘knowledge sharing’ is to schedule a training sharing day, where a few of us will ‘present’ some elements of training we’ve been too that the team is interested in and have application in various areas we work.
I will be share some of the narrative work i’ve been doing and to know where to start, i’ve asked what people want to know, what they might already know and what is it about the narrative work that interests them to spend time on it. my intention for this is to find out where people are at so i can hopefully met them with information that is relevant or at least linked to their interests with the approach. there is so much information, so asking them what they know also helps me know which bits might be useful first. i’ve thought about using some of the exercises with the externalising questions because i think this experience of externalising is a great foundation for investigating narrative. the other place i’ve observed since coming back into the team is some ‘re-telling’ reflection stuff because this will help our reflective practice as a team.
in a less formal way of working alongside my co-workers, i’ve shared readings from the narrative books and journals for workers that are talking of a particular issue as a way of introducing alternative ways to problem focused approaches. With another worker who i’ve know for some time and have a good relationship with and who is interested in narrative and in ways of working with people who use violence in a respectful way, i am able to gently ‘re-frame’ when we’re chatting/reflecting/debriefing- “he’s not the problem, however the presence of violence isn’t ok”.
in another way, i’ve also had opportunity to use of the narrative approaches in supervision with people in my team – firstly with 2 social work students on placement with our org – these conversations were exploring their emerging practice framework and I took a line of enquiry with them about what drew them to this work/study and what this related to in their landscape of identity and then in future practice, what would these values etc have them doing in practice that aligned to this framework/map….
the other supervision experience i’ve had was whilst acting in the team leader position for 2 weeks and there I was able to hear how workers were already using externalising practices from training they’d taken in strengths perspectives and then we were able to look at it through narrative and continue the externalisation to open up possible lines of enquiry to hear more about preferred stories. this experience also included the induction of a new worker to our team so we were able to use the narrative ideas to explore her expectations of supervision and of herself, starting her new job. though i am not in a direct supervision role now, we are still able to continue the conversation through reflections and debriefs and some ideas came to mind for me during my readings from the last block so the worker and I’ve made time to look at these ideas and ponder their usefulness in the work that’s happening with that family.
in the schools that i visit too, there are workers that that are curious about what i’m learning so there a little, often gentle conversations i have with them about this approach. i find this work will be slowers and more developemental on the capacity building that happens between us because of teh different places we work and the different agendas our roles bring to young people’s lives, though, these are opportunites i have to intorduce teachers, teacher aides, gudence officers, chaplins etc to the idea of multi sotried experiences and especially the membership of life (or perhaps a school community or sub-community )
anyway, i realise that is a fair bit of info and it is what came to mind for me when reading your questions about my experience weaving these learnings into the workplace. does it fit at all???
Thank you for your response, and yes, much of what you’ve said fits for me. I’ve been busy the last few days and haven’t had much time to reply to your post until now. Much of what you’ve written has been very useful to me for entering into conversations with my colleagues about a Narrative Approach in our work. Even though I believe my supervisor is keen for me to share a range of knowledges with my team, I am most passionate about Narrative Practice and my main concern has been how I would share this knowledge in particular with them.
Like you, I think that de-centred practice will be something that I continue to check back into when reflecting on my own practice. At this point in time I feel strongly challenged by my desire to adhere to these principles, especially as I look for ways to take charge of enthusiasm and old habits of mind that are inconsistent with these ideas.
It appears that mindfulness will be to be a large part of my journey as I continue to come to terms the politics of power and seek more respectful ways to share knowledge(s) with my colleagues. I’m hoping that as I more actively member this endeavor with others who are also seeking to engage in de-centred practice, that taking charge of the desire to “hold forth and expound” about narrative principles or other ideas or practices, that this journey will feel less of a burden and become easier for me over time. It seems that the challenge for me, at the moment, is the enacting of these principles, not just the talking about them.
I liked your suggestion about asking members of the team what might interest them about Narrative Practice as a starting point and implemented this suggestion this yesterday morning when all the members of the team were present. As it turned out, it was a very rewarding experience for me. I found that most of my colleagues were keen to learn more about Narrative Practice and were able to tell me what they would find most useful for me to share with them during our upcoming team meeting in a couple of weeks from now.
It was exciting to hear what it is they are most interested to learn about i.e. apart from a broad and general outline of the key principles and ideas of Narrative Practice they are also keen for me to share specific examples of how I have used a Narrative Approach in practical ways that has forwarded my work with young people and their carers… which I think was a very reasonable request. Also, I was particularly gratified by a request from one of my colleagues when she asked whether I might make myself available to collaborate with her in some of her cases and whether I might make also myself available for consultation about “Stuckness” with a couple of carers she is working with. I was able to say that I’m happy to collaborate with her in her work, but was even more gratified by her acceptance of my declaration that I am at the beginning of my journey with Narrative Practice, that I didn’t want to claim any expertise in this area, and that I would rather welcome mutual opportunities for collaborative practice and the sharing of knowledges that might arise from this… I think this was the most sparkling conversation that I had yesterday morning and I’m hoping that any endeavors that grow from it will be the beginning of many more new and exciting opportunities for collaborative practice within our team.
Most of the team are keen to learn more about Narrative Practice, but it appears that they’re needing some scaffolding to be put in place first i.e. by providing them with information that in the first instance meaningful to them, and then progressing from this more general overview to specific instances and examples in my own practice which, I hope, will enable them to relate to Narrative ideas in more concrete and practical ways.
Incidentally, in speaking with each member of the team, I also found other interests that we share in common, and that may lead to an interesting investigation of current practices around the use of Life Story Books for young people in care. It was clear to me in one of these conversations that there is much might do as a team that might enhance the work being done in this area. I can see many possibilities for collaboration around this subject which might well develop into a project within our team… However, I don’t want to move ahead of myself, or the team here.
I think I will also invite members of the team to try some exercises in externalizing and see where this leads us, if this is what they would like to do. Like you, I think externalizing is a useful foundation for the exploration of Narrative Practice as I think it helps to underpin and thicken understandings of post-structuralism, but I might have to take my lead from them about this. I think that the team’s own curiosity will need to drive this process and as I say this, I’m feeling excited and enthusiastic about not imposing my own ideas about what might enhance their learning about Narrative Practice. Nonetheless want to be prepared if they do want to experiment with externalizing exercises.
You spoke of your opportunities to use narrative practices in the context of supervision, later in the week and following our next team meeting, I will be leading a section of our team’s upcoming planning day, where we will be exploring shared values with the hope that these will inform our vision for the team into the future – our identity as a team if you like. This, I believe will most likely provide rich opportunities for further discussion about Narrative Practice, as I intend this process to be consistent with the ideas discussed in our previous team meeting – I think the term for this process is “isomorphic”. At this stage I’m considering asking members of the team to think about sparkling and/or bright moments in their work with young people and carers, and ask them to interview one another about what hopes, dreams, intentions and/or commitments might have informed these practices and then ask them to consider what these intentions might say about what’s important to them etc. Hopefully, by then my colleagues will have taken on enough background in Narrative Practice to see the connection between what they are doing in this exercise and the principles of re-authoring that I will have shared with them earlier that week.
Anyway, I just realize that this has become rather a long post as well, probably because I’m excited about the new territory that I’m stepping into with my team, so I’d better stop now. These are interesting initiatives for me, and I’m even now asking myself how I managed to get myself into this position. I look forward to hearing more about your own “training/sharing day” and how you work with people more slowly and in a more developmental/incremental manner in sharing knowlege in schools – as young people in care often struggle with school systems, this is an area in which I also work.
Thank you for sharing your rich thoughts, i really love reading your posts – taking charge of enthusiasm, rewarding experiences, sparkling conversations and more! so much stood out for me when I was reading through this reflection the first time round I hope I can remember it all now!
I’m curious about these ‘old habits of mind’ that you talk about and wonder about their ’employment history’ at your place of work…i wonder when they were first recruited and perhaps if in the past, they served a really helpful purpose in what i can only imagine could possibly be a tricky workplace where the ‘politics of power’ (both in casework and between staff) probably have their own ‘informal’ policy and procedures, admin team and recrutiment strategy!!!
I’m also really curious about how ‘mindfulness’ and ‘mindedness’ could sit alongside each other or even possibly differ and what it would be like to check in with ‘mindedness’ when engaging with colleagues…I wonder what’s possibly behind their intention to ‘understand more about the principles of NT’ and also hear about ‘specific stories of this in your practice’ as well as collaborate on the trickiness that comes to town when ‘stuckness’ takes a hold? would it be helpful to not just be in the present moment but also bring to this a curiosity of what values or hopes you share in the work? does this connect in any way to ‘the challenge’ that you’ve spoken of working around?
Tim, I was also really inspired by the idea of Life Story Books and this really fits for me in a personal situation – my mum, sister and i have been collaborating on keeping at bay the horrible effects of a ‘missing-in-action’ father for my beautiful 4 year old niece. She is amazing – oh no i feel a proud aunty moment coming on! – bright, happy, energetic, creative and has an inspiring attitude of ‘yes I can’, though her curiosity is really starting to make a pretty big search and rescue effort for her father who chose before she was born not to take an interest in her growing. my sister values strongly, the presence of honesty and has been drawing on her support crew (mum and i ) just to work out how to approach this…no sweat hey! but when i read your idea of life story books i thought this could be such an intentional way to ‘story’ the dynamic nature of HER family and what that word means at the many different stages of life. it was so lovely to be transported to this space from your comments and i hope there is a way I can offer this possible strategy to building a loved, supported and very, very worthy landscape of identity for my niece.
Would love to know how things go as this unfolds,
I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to respond to your post. I’ve had a very big week, mostly in relation to the team and your last post was very sustaining for me.
Thank you for your questions about how I might have first been recruited into those “old habits of mind” within the political context of my workplace. It’s with appreciation that I’ve taken these questions with me further into the terrain of this problem. I’m only beginning to recognise the multitudes of formal and informal practices of power within my organisation that shape how we relate to each other and the people that we work with. I’m also aware of the history my own interpersonal practices of power and continue to reflect on the intersection these in relation to various other forms of practice in my organisation – which I’d like to share a little more with you in a moment. You left me with much to think about and I’m keen to research and more fully inform myself in relation to ideas about the tactics and practices of power through readings of Foucault and Deleuze and other contributors in this field.
When I spoke of “mindfulness” in my last post, I meant it in the sense “to be mindful of” the effects of the of the politics of power within the team (which your questions are inviting me to reflect on in more depth) in terms of being aware of how the use and declaration of knowledges and/or knowhow might be interpreted as a power play or an attempt to diminish my colleagues, if I’m not “mindful” of these effects. Also, for me, the term “mindfulness” has resonances with the work of Daniel Siegel (Interpersonal Neurobiology) and the role that attention plays in helping to “rewire” and/or change how the brain works.
I’m also curious about what lies behind my colleague’s intentions to understand more about the principles of Narrative Practice, and I’m hoping to explore these ideas more fully over the next week. Hopefully, before I’m scheduled to do a presentation on Narrative Practice at our next meeting.
I experienced an uncomfortable moment the beginning of this week when I was informed that another that he had been selected, by a number of members of teams and without me being present or being consulted, to lead the section at our team planning day that was to focus on an explorations or our values and where it had been initially agreed that I would lead this section… This was an interesting situation and one where the rationale provided to me was that this other person would be best suited to ensure that this section kept within the times lines available???
(There’s so much more that I want to explore about the purposes and intentions behind this decision, particularly the fact that I wasn’t included in this decision making process, but this I’m sure will unfold over time.)
Anyway, to keep a long story short, I expressed my discomfort with being excluded from a decision making processes of this sort and it was ultimately agreed that I would discuss with the “new” presenter for this section my intentions and the framework that I had been considering for this section of the planning day with the hope of including these in the plans being made…
I spent about 45 minutes (after work) attempting to explain the principles that I intended to use i.e. Reauthoring, re-membering and re-telling questions for the team with this person and he agreed to do an outline for this session that summarised and included aspects of what I had been attempting to explain to him. Needless to say, this outline didn’t contain a very rich understanding of the ideas and principles that I had put forward, but there was agreement that I might provide some written feedback about this outline/summary; which took no small amount time one evening during the week. The outcome of this was very interesting – particularly, as I forwarded copies of my notes and suggestions not only to my colleague but the supervisor and senior practitioner of our team as well.
A day later, and after a meeting with our team supervisor in relation to the upcoming planning day, my colleague then told me that even in the first of reading the questions that I had forwarded to him these had strongly resonated with him and that, in consultation with our supervisor, it was agreed these questions would be very suitable for this section of the planning day, that my contribution to this session should be honoured by the team and that I should support and/or provide guidance while we are all considering these questions and the re-telling processes that would occur… I think my relationship with this particular person might have been reshaped (to some degree) by this process and I noticed that he took great pleasure in my own acknowledgement of his preparedness to support the team in reaching for concrete and practical outcomes from our team planning day… Perhaps he and I are at the beginning of developing a more collaborative future working relationship? I suspect that I will now need to work on building credibility with his “buddy” in the team and with who he seems to wield considerable informal influence with the rest of the team.
This has turned out to be a complex and challenging process and I’m wondering whether I’m managing to be decentred and influential while taking these steps?
I’m now in the process of writing up a presentation about Narrative Practice for our team meeting which will be two days prior to our planning day at the end of next week. Phew!
I’m glad you find inspiration in the idea of a life story book for your niece, and I can fully appreciate proud aunty moments. For me this is a way of working with children and young people that has so much potential for helping them make sense of and story their experiences, but at this point in time I’m poorly informed about the official and preferred practices in this area – something that I intend to rectify. With many of young people connected to my agency this process appears to have degenerated into a form of Scrap-booking and this will need to change!
I know from conversations with other workers that, depending on the age and developmental capacities of some children, that there is a need to keep going back and revisiting certain images and stories in Life Story Books as they ask and attempt to make sense their experience in more rich and complex ways – often influenced by the sorts of conversations and stories that they notice and make sense of in their immediate environment i.e. I worked with a two and a half year old who appeared to suddenly develop a stronger desire to spend time with his biological mother, even though his carers were in reality his “psychological parents” (having been removed from his biological parents when he was 5 months old… a day that I’ll always remember) after having stories about Mummies and Daddies read to him at day care.
Might I offer you a suggestion about this process for your niece? It’s my experience that at some stage, even for fathers “missing in action” they very often develop curiosity about the child they never knew and the child’s life story book can also be very useful for them should there be a time of reconnection. One of the children that I work with has experienced a lot of very early infant trauma, and in order to maintain relationship and connectedness to people (like teachers going on long-service leave) we made a “message box” for him so that when his favourite teacher came back from leave she would be able to reconnect with messages stories and gifts of importance from this child while she was away. Since doing this I’ve also wondered whether this idea might be useful in other contexts. What are your thoughts?
Anyway, I’ve just realised that I’ve written another very long post so should sign off – I very much enjoy these discussion and can’t say enough how helpful your last post was for me over this last week.
Tim, Cate, Sonja, Barbara & Dan,
Thanks so much for making it possible for the rest of us to read your exchange. Tim, I love that you wrote another long post. This week, I did what I never imagined – I joined Facebook! While I am enjoying the experience of connecting with old friends and making new ones., Facebook will never compete with what we are making possible here. Sometimes the words are necessary to convey the richness of the experience. I hope you are a fast typist and that you will continue to share your experiences and thoughts with us.