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Michael White and Narrative Therapy
I just came back from a workshop given by Michael White, a brilliant and compassionate therapist from Australia, who is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. One of his main ideas is that people get stuck in a "thin life story" with one theme or a simple plot. A child, for example, may be seen as "trouble" or may see himself as no good. A mom might see herself as a failure or out of control. A family might find themselves overwhelmed, or consumed by an eating disorder or drug problem. The answer, according to White, is to expand the story into a richer, fuller story, which includes sub-plots and new themes. If we focus on what people are doing wrong, we won't get onto those new pathways, because we won't find out what is important to people. So he's always on the lookout for exceptions to the dominant plotline, like when someone who feels helpless acted powerfully, or someone in despair felt some hope, or someone fearful acted brave.

Once he finds an example of this new theme, he explores the history of it: Who sustained that hope?, when else did you act bravely?, how did you get through that scary time? White sees children as the biggest experts about their own problems, and about the solutions to those problems (he feels the same way about parents, too). Here's just one parenting idea that flows from White's concepts and theories: Instead of dismissing children's fears or taking them as permanent obstacles, ask the child to introduce you to her fears ("I know you very well, so I'd like to get to know your fears too, to know what you're up against. Maybe you could name them for me, or draw them, or tell me how they operate to trick you out of having fun or doing what you want to do.")

For more information about Michael White and his theory, called Narrative Therapy, see www.dulwichcentre.com.au
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Larry Cohen
phone: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com

 
Larry Cohen
1680A Beacon Street | Brookline, MA 02445 | Tel/Fax: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com