As follow-up to an earlier conversation (Psychotherapy Networker Conference, 2003), Michael exchanged with Salvador Minuchin at The Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference (2005). Salvador insisted that there was something more guiding Michael’s practice than following maps of narrative practice. Michael responded:
This is about skills development. I have always been in awe of jazz improvisation. When I see these musicians improvise, it looks so spontaneous. But it is a meticulous development of certain skills. It is and it isn’t spontaneity. There is no contradiction. Those musicians who seem the most spontaneous are founded on the most practice.
David wrote following about Michael’s approach to improvisation in his Introduction to Michael’s Narrative Practice: Continuing the Conversation (2011), edited by David Denborough.
Michael, you never cared to look over your genius but I would like to consider your genius in improvisation. In your scintillating and respectful conversation with Salvador Minuchin at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2005, Sal kindly insisted that there was so much more to your practice than the ideas you pinned it on. You accepted this in principle by introducing the metaphor of jazz improvisation but locating that in the craft of musicianship. You insisted that that comes first. Could we take this metaphor seriously? And if so, aren’t we going to have to consider pedagogies relevant to improvisation, once a person has mastery of their craft? Why don’t we read Sudnow (2001), Ways of the Hand: A Rewritten Account together? This is an autoethnography in which Sudnow painstakingly describes how he becomes a jazz musician. And then why don’t we talk to our friends who are engaged with narrative therapy and jazz. Maps of Narrative Practice has no reference to improvisation, but I wholeheartedly agree with what you said: everyone has to first learn how to play and only then can they improvise.
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Here we’d like to highlight initiatives that combine skill-building and improvisation.
Apprenticeship Training in the Art of Narrative Practice
Faculty/Apprenticers David Epston, Kay Ingamells, and Tom Stone Carlson have developed a program that takes place in an online learning community made up with skilled narrative practitioners from all over the world. This year-long apprenticeship in David Epston’s narrative therapy practice involves training through transcripts of participant’s practice studied in detail by the apprenticers as well as monthly meetings with the team to discuss individual’s learning and to share ideas.
Narrative Therapy & HipHop
Travis Heath and Will Sherwin sat down at ReauthoringTeaching.com’s 2017 Narrative Camp to discuss Travis’s work using hip hop and narrative therapy, subverting the systems of academia, police murder of young people of color in the United States, and more. Dr. Travis Heath is a psychologist in private practice, associate professor of psychology at MSU Denver and has served as a team consultant in the NBA. He can be reached at [email protected]