What's narrative ?

by Jill Freedman

Some questions pertaining to ethics
from a narrative perspective

(The following points derive from a list that David Epston shared with us. He and Michael White developed it years ago)

1. What sort of "selves" and relationships does this model/theory/practice bring forth?

2. How does this model/theory/practice press you to conduct yourself with people who are seeking your help?

3. How does it invite them to conduct themselves with you?

4. How does it have them "treat" themselves? "see" themselves?

5. How are these people being redescribed or redefined by this model/theory/ practice?

6. Does it invite people to see therapists or themselves as experts on themselves?

7. Does it divide and isolate people or give them a sense of community and collaboration?

8. Do the questions asked lead in generative or in normative directions? (i.e. Do they propose alternative or conserve dominant social practices)?

9. Does this theory/model/practice require the person to enter the therapist's "expert" knowledge or does it require the therapist to enter the worlds of the people seeking help?

10. What is its definition of "professionalism"? Does its idea of professionalism have more to do with the therapist's presentation of self to colleagues and others or more to do with the therapist's presentation of self to the person(s) seeking their assistance?

A Few Pertinent Assumptions of the Narrative Approach:

. We become who we are through relationship--through the meaning we make of other’s perceptions of us and interactions with us.

2. We organize our lives through stories.
We can make many different stories or meanings of any particular event. There are many experiences in each of our lives that have not been “storied.” Each of those events could, if storied, lead to a different, often preferable, life narrative.

3. The dominant discourses in our society powerfully influence what gets storied and how it gets storied.
A discourse is a system of words, actions, rules, beliefs, and institutions that share common values. Particular discourses sustain particular worldviews. We might even think of a discourse as a worldview in action.
Discourses tend to be invisible--taken for granted as part of the fabric of reality.

4. Locating problems in particular discourses helps us see people as separate from their problems.
We seek to identify the discourses that support problematic stories. Once a problem is linked to a problematic discourse, we can more easily help people oppose the discourse or chose to construct their relationship in line with a different, preferred, discourse.

By Jill Freedman

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