Counselling and narrative therapy are relationships to help resolve problems, issues or questions, or to make improvements in ways of being or ways of experiencing the world. People often begin by seeing themselves as the problem, but the beginning of progress often comes with the understanding that the problem is the problem.
I see individuals, couples and family groups, and have conversations with people about a vast variety of concerns, in particular about:
- couple and family difficulties
- sex, sexuality and gender, including coming out and transition issues
- grief and loss
- relationships with habits and substances
- feelings that you might be suicidal
- the senses of being depressed or anxious
- the “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” questions
I’ve taught workshops for counsellors on aspects of grief and sexuality.
In general people see me for one fifty-minute session a week, sometimes just once or twice, sometimes for a few months.
Any contact you have with me will be in the strictest confidence, except:
- if you wish to bring other people into our conversations
- if we agree it would be helpful for me to discuss some matter with a professional
- in discussion with my professional supervisor who helps ensure the quality of my work with you.
- if there is a clear and imminent danger to you or someone else.
THE NARRATIVE APPROACH TO COUNSELLING
What I mean when I say that I use a narrative approach to counselling and therapy is that I understand that:
- The stories we have about ourselves and the world shape our lives, and define the way we see things, and what we see as good and bad. These stories are our main psychological tools, and shape how we think, understand, make meaning, and behave, and we often hang onto them quite tightly.
- It is a problem for us when we don’t have stories which are about what is actually happening to us, or when the stories we have tell us harmful stuff (perhaps prejudice). Sometimes our stories can blind us to ways of feeling, thinking and behaving that don’t fit their interpretation of our lives and the world.
- Our personal stories are developed jointly by ourselves and the important people who have influenced our lives, and by the wider community. There are lots of pre-made stories in every culture about what is right and wrong, and what is common sense, and these pre-made stories have huge influence.
- Our stories are always based on selected events—they are never complete. There is always the possibility of a more richly described story. In our past and in our present lives (and in the futures we shape for ourselves) there is always material for new stories that we have not yet told ourselves or other people. We don’t have to passively accept the stories we have lived with, or which are imposed upon us.
- It is my job to help you look at your life in ways that help you “write” new stories and “re-write” old ones. This can have remarkably healing effects.
In these ideas I am particularly influenced by Michael White and David Epston.
A slightly different strand of thought about psychology, which contributes to my work, is represented by the Russian Marxist psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who focuses on the interacting development of social organisation, behaviour, consciousness and language. He emphasises the importance of words as psychic tools more than stories. But the two approaches fit together well.