Series: Live Workshop Developing Questions # 2 – Developing Landscape Of Action & Identity Questions

About this Session

michael white:Hannah&Tessa MadiganVSNT Faculty members Helene Grau Kristensen, Stephen Madigan & David Nylund host part 2 of the Developing Questions Series by continuing their investigation into the dual landscapes of action and identity. The discussion is guided through a one-of-a-kind subtitled 13 minute audio/video of Michael White’s 1991 workshop. Michael discusses the structure and meaning of these specific questions designed to thicken, richly describe, perform and re-author preferred stories.


Michael White

Michael picture

Michael White (29 December 1948 – 4 April 2008). Australian social worker, family therapist and first editor of the Australia New Zealand Family Therapy Journal. Michael is the founder and creative ideological force of both the theory and practice of narrative therapy. To his credit he figured out and created the large majority of narrative…

Helene Grau MA (Denmark)

Helene teaching (2)

Helene Grau MA (Denmark) : Helene is co-founder of Narativ Praksis – the centre for narrative therapy in Denmark – and a faculty member with the Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy. She teaches narrative therapy at the University of Copenhagen and  trained by Michael White for many years. Helene primarily works and writes on grief,…


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Comments (3)

  1. brig wood says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I’ve never quite got to grips with the way people move between calling ‘it’ the problem’, and ‘the problem saturated story’. The two have very different connotations to me; it seems to me that ‘the problem saturated story’ in one which captures not only an account of ‘the problem – it also circumscribes the limits of a given ‘solution’. Similarly the counter story also offers an account of ‘the problem’ as well as a solution. In other-words, I tend to look at it like there is a ‘problem saturated story account of the ‘problem AND solution’, and there is a counter or alternative story account of the ‘the solution AND the problem’ (I’m not actually keen on the term ‘solution’y, but it will do for now).

    So for example, from within the problem saturated story, and the various discourses which support or frame it, ‘Jack’, (and or maybe his parents or whomever) sees his problem as one of ‘failure’, and ‘the solution’ to this (ie the problem saturated story’s account of ‘the solution’) is to get things together in a way so that he can succeed ie ‘success’ is the ultimate solution. In short, the ‘problem saturated story’ is offering here both an account of the problem and the solution (the latter of which which is basically inferred from the problem)

    Jack then trots off to a narrative therapist, the problem saturated story is deconstructed, exceptions are sought that ‘cannot be inferred’ ( ie predicted) from within the terrain of the prob sat story, Jack and therapist eventually establish a ‘counter story’, and now we have a whole new account of ‘both’ the problem and the solution eg, examples of failure turn out to be acts of protest, refusal to ‘play the game’ of dominant notions of success.

    Point being (and this is the important bit) – from the counter story perspective, the problem saturated account of the solution (‘to ‘succeed’) is now the problem, and the problem as understood within the problem saturated story (ie failure) is now an essential part of the solution. In short, the ‘prob sat story’s’ account of the problem is the ‘counter stories’ solution; the ‘prob sat stories’ solution is the counters stories account of the problem.

    And so when people talk about ‘the problem’, it’s just confusing to me. Are they talking about the ‘problem saturated account of the problem (eg failure), or the ‘counter story’ account of the problem (the need to ‘succeed’ – with all the baggage this terms carries) – just moving between ‘the problem’ and ‘the problem saturated story’ seems like a major category mistake to me (i.e. it’s not just ‘semantics’, it has real implications for practice)



  2. brig wood says:

    Hi Stephen, the point you made in reference to a LOM question around discourse, ie where you say ‘it broadens the field from doing something wrong – being shameful, but doing it anyways’ – really ‘hit home’ for me (eureka moment) the stark difference between attending to and not attending to discourse. Cheers for that

  3. Maureen Boettcher says:

    So appreciate this discussion.
    Helena your question to David and Stephen about how changing the word to describe what are now called questions of identity sparked such an interesting and important discussion about the ways that narrative allows /encourages/ promotes the deprivatization of problems and how they are supprted or not supported relationally.


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