What is a good question? Where do questions come from? How are good questions related to good stories? How do some stories surpass other stories? What have we been taught about inquiry in our training? What guides inquiry in narrative therapy? What are some narrative lines of inquiry? David Epston often addresses these questions in his workshops. Here we offer space to extend the workshop experience beyond the actual workshop – to invite participants to post whatever stood out as “take-aways” from the workshop, and for everyone to join in responding to “what is a good question?”
A Matter of Literary Merit
David acknowledges Michael White for his huge contribution in developing an approach that works from enquiry rather than theory.” Process of questioning: a matter of literary merit was published in 1989 (White, 1989 -Selected Papers – Dulwich Press). “Michael added 200-300 questions to the textbook of therapeutic inquiry that never existed before. Maybe he even added more forms of inquiry than anyone past or present.” Michael and David always vowed they would write about questions of literary merit, but they never got around to it. Instead, David’s workshop(s) focus on the theme of poetic inquiry.
Michael and David considered questions were brewed in a cauldron of creativity where people’s imagination gets expanded, stretched and exercised. Questions are not asked from a place of detachment or vague interest. Instead questions engage experience and curiosity, evoking engagement in one’s own life.
Sometimes narrative therapy has been misunderstood as a manual-based approach where trainees memorize an order of questions. Inquiry is actually the source of creativity in narrative practice.
Apprenticing to a Craft
In teaching question-asking, David invites us to practice question-asking as one might apprentice playing a musical instrument or practice throwing a ball in baseball practice. As someone with 37 years of experience, he makes himself available to train others in a particular approach to inquiry. He emphasizes the focus is not on right or wrong. However, he believes in practice, practice, practice, with mentoring by a more experienced practitioner. He wishes to retrain assumptions that many of us were taught in other training programs such as: to ask neutral cardboard questions; never answer a personal question -instead respond with a question; ask what – never why; focus on problems; make eye contact – don’t take notes; ask circular questions; if you ask more than 3 questions, you have failed.