Tributes to Michael - Re-Authoring Teaching
Epston and White knew of each other's work and met in when both were presenting at the second According to Cheryl White (), it was in that context Michael and David began their enduring New York: Oxford University Press. David Epston and Johnella Bird were already playing an influential role in theory course takes place on a marae (Maori sacred meeting ground). with other students acting as a reflecting team (Andersen ; White ). . (Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2- David Epston collaborated with Michael White for more than 25 years. was published as Saying Hello Again: Remembering Michael White.
Down Under, Up Over. For further information about AFT and their publications, Click here. I am quite sure wherever he is now watching over these proceedings he would be very discomfited by the outpourings of shock, grief and mourning over his death on the one hand and the reverence in which he has been held and tributes paid to him from Quito in Ecuador, to Seoul in South Korea, from Moscow in Russia, to Cape town in the Republic of South Africa.
I remember when he told me how worried about this he was, I had to go and look up the word. Entitled Living Narrative History and Practice: Histories of the Future, David invites you to re-invent Narrative Therapy as he shares the history and the spirit of Narrative practice through story, song, poetry, and a remarkably open and humorous conversational interview with his old friend and colleague, Walter Bera.
They become personal and intellectual allies in developing first family therapy in their respective countries and later the ideas and practices that became known as Narrative Therapy. Biting the Hand that Starves You: At the same time, we made a commitment to work, teach and write as a team. I continue to treasure this commitment. I hope it will be understood that the stories I share here are the product of collective endeavour.
Looking back It may be helpful to describe the particular social context in which we decided to shift our orientation to narrative ideas. In the early s, Wendy Drewery was already teaching within the counselling program at Waikato. Having been immersed in feminist theory, Wendy was engaged with the feminist critiques of counselling that were happening at that time.
These feminist critiques concerned how conventional psychology did not take adequate account of constructions of gender and power relations in counselling knowledge. No longer was power only an external matter but intricately involved in the ongoing construction and re-construction of identity and relationships. At the same time, in the early s, there were challenges to counselling that were coming from Maori in New Zealand, who were pointing out that conventional psychological approaches were not relevant to Maori ways of seeing the world e.
Individualistic understandings of problems and individualistic solutions were seen by Maori psychologists to be separating members of their community from one another and from their cultural knowledges. Many forms of counselling were imposing western categories of self and identity upon Maori people.
A particular senior Maori woman, Hinekahukura Tuti Aranui, encouraged us to listen to these critiques. This too contributed to a determination to find alternative ways of approaching counselling education.
Together we decided that the narrative therapy approaches developed by David Epston and Michael Whiterepresented the direction that we were interested in and wished to pursue. It seemed to us all that narrative ideas offered an alternative to the modernist rationalist approaches that had up until then dominated counsellor education.
While we knew that a narrative approach would not necessarily resolve all dilemmas in relation to both feminist and Maori critiques of counselling, we felt that it was the most promising framework from which to respond. The fact that narrative approaches were being developed in our part of the world was an extra incentive.
We felt that as a New Zealand university, it would be appropriate, in fact almost a responsibility, to take these local ideas seriously. The generous support and enthusiasm of David Epston also made a considerable difference to this. David Epston and Johnella Bird were already playing an influential role in developing a community of people interested and engaged in narrative ideas in New Zealand. David has had a background but significant influence in the shifts that our program has made through the years.
How can we give an account of the practice of counsellor education that is similarly informed by a narrative metaphor? Wendy and Gerald started by developing a new counselling theory course. We wished to convey that there is a range of theoretical ideas that therapists need to engage with in order not to simply reproduce the individualistic, modernist approaches which are automatically familiar to most of us.
The theory course that was developed draws on postmodernism e. In many ways, this counselling theory course is a philosophical course. This is a departure from previous counselling theory courses which were generally eclectic and taught a range of counselling approaches as if they had an abstract existence and could sit alongside one another. They could not make the link between a certain question they had asked and how this linked to a particular way of thinking, or philosophy.
David Epston – An Overview
This new counselling theory course sought to question this. After immersing students in social constructionist and poststructuralist writings, students then use methods of discourse analysis to engage with different approaches to therapy. For instance, we take a range of approaches to counselling and then ask the following deconstructive questions about them: What kind of subjectivity is produced from this way of thinking? What kind of gender relations does this particular approach to counselling privilege?
What kind of entitlements or privileges does this particular approach support? What metaphors or understandings of identity and relationship are constructed?
How does this approach contribute to or counter ongoing processes of cultural colonisation? To make these considerations more personal, students are also asked to deconstruct an incident from their own life in terms of the discourses that were operating to shape their experience of this incident.
We regularly receive feedback from students that this deconstruction of their own experience transforms their understandings. At around the same time, Wally McKenzie and Gerald Monk began teaching a new family therapy course in the degree that specifically focused on the ideas and practices of narrative therapy.
At first there was a very thin literature available for this course. In the last ten years, that has changed dramatically. Since then, all of our courses have been gradually been infiltrated by narrative and constructionist ideas and we are applying these ideas to basic counselling skills, to group work, and to mediation.
Some reflections on the legacies of Michael White: An Australian perspective - The Dulwich Centre
We think of a professional identity as consisting of a set of values, attitudes, ideas, knowledge and skills. From this perspective, the task of counsellor education then becomes one of co-authoring students and counsellor educators together a story of professional identity development.
In order to develop such an identity, certain skills must be learned; certain thinking must be done in relation to current theoretical conversations; and certain relationships must be formed with the community of counsellors of which they hope to become a part.
Development of a professional identity involves fostering self-descriptions consistent with the performance of the values and skills of counselling practice. We believe it is possible to structure a context that provides opportunities for the storying of professional identity and this keeps us, as practitioners of counsellor education, alert to the moments that can arise for story development.
In conceptualising the storying professional identity, we do not invite students to construct a self-contained notion of identity, one that is owned within the individual and independent of how they are experienced by those consulting them. Instead, we are interested in storying identities that are constantly formed in relationship. Throughout the program, we construct a range of opportunities for students to story their professional identity through conversations and interactions with clients, with supervisors, with peers, and with the academic staff.
The storying of identity also occurs through processes of reading, talking about the reading with others, and articulating a considered response in writing. The connection between sexual exploitation and other forms of child abuse with the likely development of fears in relation to the night is an obvious one.
Another explanation that has, until recently been overlooked, relates to the profound insecurity that children may experience in relation to the threat of nuclear war and ecological catastrophe … These explanations should always be entertained by therapists when assessing childhood fears and their context.
If an exploration of the context of the fears supports or points to these explanations, appropriate action should be undertaken. He describes his conversations with Martin, an 8 year old boy, who had been affected by fearfulness since he was four. Through a process of externalizing conversation, however, Martin was able to openly characterize his worries, to describe them as separate from his being.
He was also able to name each of these worries, to clearly distinguish them from one another, to graphically describe them, to articulate the ways in which they operated, and to convey the plans these worries had for his life.
As the worries became richly characterized, Michael was then able to enquire about the wider social forces that were supportive of them. This is what he discovered: I learned from him that these worries were powerfully supported by global events, including the tsunami, the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suicide bombings in the Middle East. How had he come to be so well informed about these events? Unbeknownst to his parents, he regularly watched news of world events on television.
Martin now found himself in a conversation with his parents that validated his worries. These worries were no longer considered irrational. He was now not simply a fearful boy in their eyes, and their joining with him in conversations about these concerns in making plans for addressing them was deeply relieving to Martin White,p. Secondly, much of my work is now with groups and communities who are experiencing significant hardship which is a result of injustice Denborough Externalising practices, methods which refuse to locate problems within individuals, and processes which unearth the values that may be implicit within certain fears or terrors, are of invaluable assistance.
We are continuing to explore ways in which narrative practices can assist groups and communities to respond to broader social injustices8. This work draws upon long histories. He was an exceptionally skilled practitioner and in these conversations, children were no longer left alone, fearful in the dark.
Instead, they came to see themselves as knowledgeable and as joined with many others — soft toy team members, parents, care-givers, other children. Somehow, pride and dignity would come to replace terror in their eyes. Michael would weave conversations that brought freedom and dignity to children, and in ways that were always looking outward towards social issues.
Legacies associated with examining the politics of experience Feminism swept through the family therapy field in the s, as it had through wider Australian culture, changing understandings of families, relationships, parenting, power relations and abuse as well as conceptions of therapy and professional disciplines. In fact, looking through the early editions of the Australian Journal of Family Therapy, it seems clear that many things that had been taken-for-granted were now up for questioning.
This was the context in which Michael White, David Epston and others began to develop what has come to be known as narrative therapy. It was a special edition of the Dulwich Centre Newsletter No. I believe that this perspective makes it possible for us to face and to come to terms with our history, and frees us to do something that is very difficult — that is, to take the courage and to find the wherewithal to act against our own culture.
It is a perspective that draws together the personal and the political at several levels. To me, this was profoundly hopeful. This included forms of recognition: This does not add up to failure. In the mids, influenced by the work of the Just Therapy Team from Aotearoa, New Zealand, and their example of forms of cultural and gender partnership accountability Tamasese and WaldegraveTamasese et alMichael described a range of practices of gender accountability in relation to this work with men White, The following two quotes are drawn from an interview in the early s: We can openly acknowledge the political dilemmas that we face in our day-to-day work… White, d, p.
As Michael conveys below, narrative therapy had its origins in a time in Australian history in which feminist perspectives were altering everything: Feminism has been perhaps the most extraordinary social achievement of the last few decades, and I think its influence within family therapy has been enormous. I believe that it has contributed to a sea-change, many of the implications of which are still being worked out.
I know that there has been a backlash to feminist ideas, but, despite this, the ripples are ever widening. Feminism has changed, and is continuing to change, so much of what we think and what we do. It was perhaps particularly obvious in his work with those who had received psychiatric diagnoses and who had spent time within psychiatric institutions There was a dedication to rigorously examine the real effects of dominance and to find ways of working in partnership across relations of power.
These are legacies that I hope will not be forgotten. These are legacies that I wish to honour here.
About this paper In this paper I have discussed differing aspects of the legacies of Michael White and I have organized these around three themes: These themes emerged as I read the early Editorials and Letters to the Editor sections of the Australian Journal of Family Therapy while Michael was its inaugural editor I chose this particular approach because this paper is to be included in a special issue honouring the 30 year anniversary of the Australia and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy.
There is a second reason I have chosen this approach. Over the last twenty years, within Australia, a tension has existed between some sections of the field of family therapy on the one hand, and what has become known as the field of narrative therapy and community work on the other. So much so, that at times these fields have been described as discontinuous and discrete It is my hope that it is possible to honour the past, to maintain clarity in relation to distinctions of thought and practice, and also to revel in conversations and collaboration across differences Michael conveyed a sentiment that seemed shared by all those I interviewed: It has been my experience that the family therapy field is one in which can be found support for people to explore a range of ideas, and the implications of these ideas in regard to practice.
White, Michael - Encyclopedia of Social Work
It is not a closed shop. I have really appreciated this. There are particular schools within the field, and I acknowledge that all schools have the potential to run into some of the hazards of orthodoxy, but there is no orthodoxy in a general sense in the field of family therapy. This fact is, I think, something worthy of celebration White, b, p. It seems profoundly appropriate that the current editors of this journal are compiling this special edition.
I would like to express my appreciation for this and I hope it contributes to further conversations and collaborations between a diversity of practitioners.
There are many ways in which this will be done. As this paper draws to a close, I am sitting surrounded by the Michael White archive here at Dulwich Centre. There are books, articles, manuscript notes, dvds, videos, tape recordings of teachings and translations of his writings into many different languages.
Every so often we receive an email, letter or parcel from a family or practitioner who wish to contribute to this archive. They may be sending a particular story they would like to share, or an idea that Michael described in a workshop but which never made it to print.
We are now beginning to hear from those who consulted Michael in therapy as children.
- Tributes to Michael
- ‘Storying professional identity’
- Some reflections on the legacies of Michael White: An Australian perspective
Their perspectives will be significant to include.