Narratives of Therapists' Lives

By Storm, Cheryl L. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, January 2000 | Go to article overview

Narratives of Therapists' Lives


Storm, Cheryl L., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


White, M. (1997). Narratives of therapists' lives. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre, pp. 242.

As one of the therapists experiencing demoralization, fatigue, and burnout that White notes too frequently fill today's culture of psychotherapy, I read with excitement and hopefulness Narratives of Therapists' Lives. White proposes that therapist despair may be the outcome of how therapy is conceived and practiced. He begins with a provocative look at the shift in what counts when one enters the professional culture. He continues his argument with a discussion of the professional discourses and how they inform the conception and politics of the therapeutic relationship, and the effects of this on the lives of those who consult therapists and on the work and lives of therapists.

White offers the relational practices of therapy and the practices of self-of-therapist associated with narrative ideas and poststructuralism as partial antidote for therapist burnout. White focuses especially on the ethic of collaboration and decentered practice as an effective antidote to therapist demoralization, despair, and fatigue. He suggests that therapists respond to burnout by engaging in remembering conversations, the convening of definitional ceremonies, identifying the two-way nature of the therapeutic interaction and expressing this as taking-it-back practices, constructing supervision as reauthoring conversations, and envisioning training as collaborative research.

White ends his work by wondering about the reader's experience of his book, particularly what ideas and practices the reader related to most strongly. In my case, I became uncomfortably fascinated with the notion that the professional culture may be a significant contributor to my own despair as well as that of other therapists. I began to question the effects of being a professional on my life-something I used to wear with pride. I am rethinking my efforts to help novice therapists become accepted "professionals" who act in sync with the therapy culture. I am wondering if I am marginalizing the very experiences and personal qualities that led me to invite these therapists into my professional world and to choose to be a therapist and teacher of therapy.

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