Collaborative Group Conversations Across Generations.

 Monday Morning, June 17, 2019

9 am – 12:30 pm (3 CEs)

Led by Peggy Sax, Charley Lang, Akansha Vaswani, Larry Zucker and others
in two locations: The Projector House and Barton’s Lookout Lodge

During this session, we will: 1) interview our elders about their experiences of the past, present and future of Narrative Therapy; 2) interview fresher voices in the field about the most engaging ideas and practices in their work. This process will be guided by a particular approach to Collaborative Group Conversations as developed by Gaye Stockell & Marilyn O’Neil (Sydney, Australia). This webpage briefly describes and illustrates the process. We will  contact- and give additional instructions – to interviewers.

Learning Objectives: Participants will gain a better understanding of:

  1. How to apply Collaborative Group Consultation (O’Neil & Stockell, 1991) to intergenerational conversations about narrative practice.
  2. Specific hopes, commitments, highlights for elder narrative practitioners’ past, present and future.
  3. Ideas and practices for fresher voices in narrative practice that most engage them in bringing narrative practice forward.

Overview of The Collaborative Group Conversations Approach

“In Conversations With Others We Become Other”

  • The Ideas that inform CGCs have been largely influenced by Michael White and David Epston’s approach to Narrative therapy, and explored by Marilyn O’Neill and Gaye Stockell whilst working with members of a psychiatric service in the late 80’s.
  • Of significance to the CGCs are the ideas supporting the concept of identity being a social endeavor and that change is more possible through social interaction.
  • Invitations are offered to people interested in having the experience of a Collaborative Community Conversation (CGC), of contributing stories with similar themes and in having a willingness to share ideas and skills.   In this process people become co-researchers and have their stories reflected upon and linked with others.
  • The purpose of these group conversations is to offer people the opportunity to experience themselves as part of a community in which stories are heard; beliefs and understandings are shared; shifts in self knowledge and self appreciation are made with links and connections being formed along with others’ stories.
  • The Intention of the CGC is for people to experience themselves with a preferred sense of identity shaped by the conversation and their social interaction with others. Further, it is hoped that the shared ideas will be taken away and continue to be explored and put into practice.
  • When available, an additional aspect of this group process is to include an Outsider Witness Team (OWT)  to provide reflections on the community conversations.

The Practices of CGCs take the form of an inquiry interested in:

  • deconstructing dominant discourses,
  • introducing externalizing language,
  • attending to the alternate and preferred accounts people have of their lives
  • connecting with the stories of influential associations that contribute to people’s preferred sense of identity: known as re-membering conversations (see Myerhoff, B, 1982  Russell S & Carey M 2002))
  • discovering the ‘absent but explicit’ (Carey M ,Russell S &Walther S 2009)
  • cross-linking similarities in others’ stories and cross-connecting one aspect of a person’s story with another aspect of their story. (O’Neill M, & Stockell G 1991)
  • speculating about the significance, the implications of the stories being told.
  • inviting reflections on stories being heard  by an audience/outsider witness team (OWT) who will be considering the effects and implications on them of these stories.

More specific instructions will be given to those of us who will be interviewers.


O’Neill, M & Stockell, G. 1991  ‘Worthy Of Discussion: Collaborative Group Therapy’  Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy).

Reconstructing identities and inviting preferred stories of self: Narrative practices in mental health settings and prisons by Marilyn O’Neill and Gaye Stockell: Friday afternoon at Dulwich Centre

Gaye Stockell and Marilyn O’Neill have been engaging with narrative ideas for well over twenty years. They were two of the first practitioners to use ‘re-authoring practices’ within psychiatric settings.

In this video presentation they look back to the ‘Worthy of Discussion Groups’ that took place in a community mental health rehabilitation service. They describe how these groups involved reconstructing identities and inviting preferred stories of self.

Marilyn and Gaye also discuss how they are now engaged with people in reconstructing identities in many other contexts, including within prisons.

We invite your reflections on this video and the social construction of identity.

Click here to watch the video.

Additional References

Carey, M & Russell, S.  ‘Re-membering: responding to commonly asked Questions. The international Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work 2002 No.3

Carey, M., Russell, S. & Walther, S. ‘The Absent but Implicit: A Map to Support Therapeutic Inquiry’.  Family Process 10.8.2009

Myerhoff, B 1982 ‘Life history among the elderly. Performance, visibility and re-membering.’ In Ruby, J.(ed): A Crack in the Mirror: Reflective perspectives in anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

White, M 2007 ‘Definitional Ceremonies’ in Maps Of Narrative Therapy. WW Norton & Co