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  • November 20, 2022 Collab Salon: Co-sparking Conversations Across Narrative Generations
     April 17, 2022
     4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Letter as Threshold: Inhabiting Metaphor in Narrative Letter Writing Practices

with Randy Nelson (Seattle Washington USA) & Akansha Vaswani (Seattle Washington,USA/Bombay, India) 

April 17, 2022 Collab Salon: 4:00 – 5:30 pm NY time

We live through the narrative metaphor, yet many of us as Narrative Therapists find ourselves lost when invitations to metaphor beckon at the edges of our therapeutic conversations.  From the forgiving editorial space of Narrative letters, this presentation invites participants to identify, expand, and inhabit metaphor to externalize problems, develop unique outcomes, and recruit an appreciative audience.  Akansha and Randy will share some of the metaphor-centered letters they’ve written and invite participants to begin exploring metaphor in text while collaboratively resisting the gravitational pull of Cleverness that sometimes keeps pen from paper.

We understand Cleverness in the context of letter writing as unseen forces that dictate how narrative letters “should” (or “should not” be written). Here’s what BJ Novak learned from Steve Carrell (both from the show The Office) about writing jokes which we think nicely captures our sentiments about privileging one’s voice and “character” in the process of narrative letter-writing.

Steve [Carell] knocked down a lot of jokes, in the best way. I’ll always remember, like [as] a real eager 25-year-old comedy writer, I brought down a bunch of jokes to set when a scene wasn’t working. That was often the young writer’s job, “go write alts.” I ran a bunch down to set. And I was really proud of them, and he said, “I don’t know. These all seem like jokes.” And I thought, Well, yeah, that’s my job! These are jokes. And he meant that it all had to come from character and truth and feeling, that was really his school of comedy. … I learned a lot about emotion and truth being more important than the desire to prove how clever you were. I think it’s why my early stand-up at that youth hostel didn’t work, and the lesson I’ve really slowly learned over time.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Understand the theoretical basis for metaphor-based narrative letter writing practices. Increase awareness of the myriad invitations to metaphor inherent in everyday speech.
  • Learn to develop experience-near metaphors to externalize problems, thicken unique outcomes, and recruit an appreciative audience.
  • Negotiate a working relationship with Cleverness that enables metaphor-centered letters to shift from possibility to practice.

April 2022 Video Recording

Evaluation for CE Credit

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Randy Nelson, MA, LMHC likes words and people.  Fifteen years ago, he fortuitously stumbled upon Narrative Therapy in the Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling program at Seattle University.  He has been an active member of the Seattle Narrative Group, a Narrative Therapy consultation and training collective.  He is immensely grateful for the generosity of wisdom and care of Marcy Rivas and others in the Seattle Narrative community.  For the last thirteen years, Randy has worked as an adult case manager/counselor in the community mental health setting of Harborview Mental Health Services in Seattle.  He has conducted trainings on Narrative Therapy for the UW Medicine Department of Psychiatry and other community organizations.  In the consulting room and in life, Randy endeavors to position himself at the clunky and elusive intersection of skepticism, lightheartedness, and solidarity.

Akansha Vaswani PhD, was introduced to narrative practices in Mumbai when she began working at Ummeed Child Development Center in Mumbai in 2010. Here she was also introduced to principles of family-centered care, early intervention, and community-based advocacy. Her interest in systemic change took her to San Diego State University where her studies in marriage and family therapy strengthened her commitment to developing clinical practice through the lens of de-colonizing, feminist, and postmodern practice. Her doctoral work at UMass Boston, focused on drivers of institutional corruption in psychiatry and solutions for reform, particularly the practice of deprescribing and rational prescribing grounded in informed consent. She is currently an Acting Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine where she works on the implementation of family-to-family support programs for families of persons managing psychosis.