Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

BOOKMARKS; Restoring Our Roles: Preventing Burnout through Collaboration

Magazine article Family Therapy Networker

BOOKMARKS; Restoring Our Roles: Preventing Burnout through Collaboration

Article excerpt

Narratives of Therapists' Lives

Michael White

Dulwich Centre Publications. 1997. 242 pp.

ISBN 0-9586678-3-7

It's Friday afternoon and you've spent the past 5 days sitting with people whose anguish has become all too familiar over your years of practice-- the corrosive legacy of sexual abuse, the dead weight of depression, the power struggles of stagnant marriages--and it's hard to see that your efforts to listen, question, suggest and reframe have had any effect. Doubts creep in. Are you an expert at anything? Do you deserve the trust your clients place in you?

Most of us have had Friday afternoons like this. When the reality of what we can do as therapists fails to match our expectations, it's ourselves we find wanting. But, in his new book, Narratives of Therapists' Lives , Michael White proposes an alternate view. We become dispirited, not because we are failures, but because our hierarchical view of therapy emphasizes our ideas and actions while giving little attention to our clients' perspectives. When we assume the one-up position, the burden of change rests entirely with us. The demand for professional objectivity leaves much of our ordinary humanity at the office door. And some of our "expert" behavior--diagnosing, evaluating, labeling--can unwittingly oppress our clients, when all we want to do is help.

The way out of this dilemma, according to White, is to develop a more collaborative practice, a subject about which he has written extensively, but here his focus is how collaboration can enhance the therapist's life.

White proposes a number of ways to foster collaboration that help us connect with our colleagues as well as our clients. "Re-membering practices," for example, aim to evoke and acknowledge the contributions that a whole host of people have made to our lives. On a discouraged Friday afternoon, for example, such a conversation with a colleague might call forth comforting ghosts from the past--the grandmother who loved you when no one else did, the mentor who saw your potential long before you believed in it yourself, the supervisor who shared her own struggles with the meaning of therapy. In a re-membering conversation, you might also discover and discard the voices that shake your belief in yourself. Although "re-membering" may sound like simple reminiscing, or a pep talk, White uses interviews with therapists to show how it can create a more confident, forgiving view of ourselves. …

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