Michael White loved to be in the company of children, and his work with children was filled with beauty, laughter and intrigue. He often spoke about the extreme importance of finding ways for children and families to address trauma. He received many referrals of children in child protection services as well as with larger systems such as Aboriginal communities impacted by suicide. In Africa, he met with over 60 agencies providing services to children impacted by AIDS epidemic.

Michael frequently spoke and wrote about a narrative approach to working with children and trauma. In “Children, Trauma and Subordinate Storyline Development“(International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work: Responding to Trauma Part 2 -2005 Nos. 3 & 4), Michael poses the central question, “How can we ensure that children are not vulnerable to an experience of re-traumatization in the context of speaking about what they have been through?”

Trauma and Its Consequences

In December, 2005, Michael presented a workshop at “The Evolution of Psychotherapy, entitled “Trauma and its Consequences. We are delighted to include the audio recording. As you listen to Michael’s voice, please review his accompanying workshop notes.

Workshop Notes

1) We do not want to contribute to their identities becoming defined by trauma.

2) We want to work with young people to find a different territory of identity to stand in – to understand the consequences of trauma in their life.

  1. Conversations to draw out avenues –small places, like islands to become archipelagos and then larger territories of safety upon which to stand. From this position of safety, traumatic memory may be restored.
  2. No one is a passive recipient to trauma. Responses are often diminished and rendered invisible, often disqualified, dispossessed and diminished.
  3. Responses are founded on what someone gives value to as well as a person’s knowledges and skills of living.
  4. Everybody gives value to something. Point of entry to rich story development to bring subordinate storyline out of shadows, which are always there in thin traces.
  5. Nothing happens in a vacuum. There is always a social-relational history to wherever someone puts value.
  6. The subordinate storyline often lies in the shadows; as it becomes more richly described, an account emerges of what a person values in life, leading to a foundation for action.
  7. Re-membering conversations and outsider witness practices would provide a community of concern and appreciation to assist a person in the repositioning of oneself in relation to trauma.
  8. Reauthoring conversations bring forth identity conclusions defined by one’s purposes, intentions, hopes & dreams, preferred initiatives and actions for life rather than by the account of trauma.
  9. Therapists do not assume to know a person’s unique experiences of trauma; rather they provide the scaffold for inquiry. The therapeutic position is “decentered and influential.” People are the authorities on their lives.
  10. Incorporating Vigotsky’s ideas provides scaffolding to move learning from concrete toward conceptual thinking.

For further study, please download (or find) Michael White’s seminal article, Children, Trauma & Subordinate Storyline Development, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work: Responding to Trauma Part 2 -2005 Nos. 3.