#4 Power and Practice: Michel Foucault’s ideas and the narrative therapy practice of Michael White

About this Session

OIP-10The 4th discussion in this series continues to highlight the influence Michel Foucault’s ideas had on the narrative therapy practice of Michael White. Philosopher Todd May guides the discussion on the shift from sovereign to modern practices power. The hour begins with a recent 14 minute VSNT training lecture with Todd in 2020 outlining the discussion.


Date

May 27, 2020 at 9:00 am - 10:00 am

Pacific Time


Organizer

VSNT.live & the Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy

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Comments (3)

  1. Emily Doyle says:

    Thank you, Stephen and Todd, for such an invigorating discussion today! I found myself frantically jotting notes as we went, there was just so much ground covered…

    I’ve been sitting with the idea that power can create and produce (not just limit), in the context of today’s discussion. More specifically, in relation to Stephen’s salient point that narrative therapy has, in some ways, moved toward become a job that people do rather than an ethical responsibility that people take up. Additionally, regarding the tension between the felt responsibility to “circle the wagons” against criticism of practices and engaging in critical reflection about those same practices.

    We are constantly orienting toward social and institutional organization. We can’t untangle from that. As noted, we are only therapists/counsellors/psychologists/family therapists as these titles have come to be sanctioned though levels of regulation that are informed by practices and policies far beyond the relationships we seek to engage in as therapists with our clients. This social organization both constructs and constrains who we are able to be as professionals. In the same way, our participation in these activities and systems construct and constrain who is able to be a “client” of therapy as well…after all, “client” isn’t a naturally occurring state of a person – we are actively “making up clients” in our work.

    I can’t help but wonder if there is a distinction between limiting and creating/producing that has connection to accountability (maybe that isn’t the right word, but that’s the best fitting one floating by right now) in the “limited discussion” of these issues that Stephen pointed out. It feels easier and more comfortable to recognize what I am participating in (systems, institutions, power relations) than it does to consider what I might be creating through this participation. I certainly feel a different level of responsibility when I think about performing a job vs. my upholding ethical responsibilities. This tension exists for me when I think about how things are done (now, in this context, with my participation) and how things are done (grand narrative). It is comfortable for me to believe that things are socially constructed, but much less so to acknowledge my participation in ongoing creation (for good or for ill and sometimes for both).

    It feels vulnerable to think too much on this, let alone give voice to it. I can’t help but worry that in questioning my participation in the way that things are, that rejection (ejection?) might follow. And what experience with Narrative Therapy could I possibility to contribute, when I didn’t have the experience as this approach as an antidote (ethical responsibility) in the same way as those who have been building it from the ground up? It feels almost disrespectful to question any of it, even with the acknowledgement that different contexts and circumstances were being responded to 30+ years ago than are occasioning responses today. There is a finger that could be easily pointed in my direction, signalling me out and placing me outside, if I am open with my critical reflections about my own practices – it might be easier, in so many ways, to just accept doing my job, in the way that it has come to be known and done.

    (oh, but the trouble I’d have saved myself along the way if I could’ve just figured out how to do that…)

    What I find myself coming back to, though, is my belief that we are a family of therapists. And as a family of narrative therapists, it strikes me that we already have in hand so many of the things that we would need to engage, with each other, in these topics. There is wonderfulness here.

    I’m grateful that this discussion was opened, and exited to see where it takes us!

    🙂 Emily

  2. VSNT says:

    Thank you (once again!) Emily for articulating the salient albeit puzzling issues you have left us with in your comment. I was particularly struck by your comment: “It feels easier and more comfortable to recognize what I am participating in (systems, institutions, power relations) than it does to consider what I might be creating through this participation. I certainly feel a different level of responsibility when I think about performing a job vs. my upholding ethical responsibilities.”

    You point Emily (If I have this correct), is experienced (I’m quite sure) by all of us to one degree or another. However, it has been, in my opinion, under discussed and under analysed. What are we producing within the narrative therapy we engage in? Or as Todd/Foucault pointed out, what does it do? Are we aware of what it does under the influence and organizational structures/systems we are producing NT within?

    Another point you brought up in the discussion and articulate here provided a wee bit of an aha moment when you stated out the difference of learning/generational contexts between NT as an antidote (1990’s) and – NT as a course option (current). Being born into the 1st generation of students, narrative was entirely taught as an ethical responsibility (at least this is how I received it). And as the years go by this was not necessarily the message you and your generation of narrative therapists were received into narrative therapy with.

    Now, hopefully with your help, I’m trying to figure out a way to host much more of a discussion on this topic – between the generations – discussing each generations experience, the changing and shifting contexts etc. Thanks again.

  3. brig wood says:

    Wonderful presentation as usual. I’ve only just watched this video (late September), but felt compelled so say that I really enjoyed Emily’s contribution here and its relevance to the topic of Foucault. Her response to Todd’s query about naturalness, the issue of ‘what we do’ as narrative therapists really gave me some food for thought.
    Cheers,
    Brig

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