Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Beyond Psychological Truth Deconstructing Western Deficit-Oriented Psycholog Y and the Co-Construction of Alternative Psychologies in Narrative Practice

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Beyond Psychological Truth Deconstructing Western Deficit-Oriented Psycholog Y and the Co-Construction of Alternative Psychologies in Narrative Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

I am a woman, daughter, twin sister, mother, grandmother, partner, narrative therapist, dog lover, fisherwoman, and many other things! I have worked on a daily basis with the stories of people's lives since I first encountered Michael White and narrative practices in 1993. Since that time I have engaged in over 10,000 narrative conversations, and it is my profound belief that the problem stories that shape people's realities can be re-authored, and that these new stories can have a transformative impact upon people's lives and identities. I have always been deeply interested in the ideas that underpin narrative practice, and share them often with people in and beyond the counselling room, hence the practices described in this paper.

Exposing a nd developing alternatives to domina nt western psycholog y in the thera peutic context

In recent months I have been exploring a particular set of practices that have been evolving in my practice over the past several years. I have long been interested in the ideas that might be called a folk psychology (White, 2001) or a relational psychology (Gergen, 1994;; 2009a;; 2009b), and an ethic that has always informed my practice has been transparency. Over the years I have incorporated into my practice an overt and transparent sharing of ideas and concepts from the alternative psychologies that underpin narrative work, contrasting these with the more individualising and pathologising constructs of dominant western psychology.

This has resulted in some wonderful conversations in my counselling room about ideas such as Foucault's 'universal reign of the normative' (1977, p. 304), Kenneth Gergen's relational psychology (2009a;; 2009b), Barbara Myerhoff's thinking on life memberships (Myerhoff, 1982;; White, 1997), and the co-construction of more specific folk psychologies, ways of thinking about selves and lives, that can assist in the construction of people's preferred ways of being.

These conversations have produced some thrilling moments where it seems to me that people are unleashed from the restraints imposed by the policing of their own and others' lives. This has involved me sharing, in everyday words, often complex narrative ideas and social constructionist concepts, discussing these with people, and experiencing their relief and real interest in relation to these new/old/naïve ways of relating to their lives. I almost always And these conversations open new spaces for the re-storying of lives and identities, and the re-shaping of people's personal psychologies.

In therapeutic practice, narrative ideas are not usually overtly spoken or taught - they inform practice that decentres the therapist and theories, and centres people's lived experience and local, often subjugated knowledges (White & Epston, 1990). Practices of sharing these ideas require a temporary and intentional stepping beyond the strictly decentred therapeutic position to And a position which momentarily centres the ideas behind the therapy, while still holding the person's lived experience and preferred ways of being at the centre ofthe conversation. This fluid positional movement creates the space for making the ideas that inform the therapy more available to people, and for the co-construction of more relational psychological ideas that can assist people in the general meaning-making of their lives. People can leave the therapy not only with new/old stories about their lives and identities, but with an alternative set of frameworks for understanding their own and others' lives and identities in the future.

My hope is that this work can assist the people with whom I work and other practitioners to refuse being positioned as the 'unwitting accomplice ... of modern power' (White, 2011, p. 43) and to consider an alternative ethic that might 'underscore the phenomena of a relational self rather than the phenomena of the encapsulated self that is the vogue of contemporary Western culture' (White, 2011, p. …

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