Series: Live Workshop Developing Questions Series # 4 – Three Ideas Supporting Externalizing Problems

About this Session

Michael H&T and meEarly on Michael White disputed psychology’s more formalized description of personhood that championed the norm through generalizations regarding who people actually were. Join hosts Helene Grau, Stephen Madigan, David Marsten & David Nylund as they continue their investigations into the various structures, types and meanings of externalizing questions through an 11 minute 1987 workshop video of Michael discussing externalizing problems and a 4 minute video of Stephen externalizing a ‘troubled reputation’ with a Mother and son.


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…


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Comments (10)

  1. brig wood says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the video of Helene, Stephen & David discussing this (presumably it will be up soon -as will part 3, the last discussion in part 2 was so insightful)

    Personally I’m interested in the idea that Michael made about finding no helpful utility or function in the problem. I’m wondering if he sort of changed his view on this as time went by (or, as I mentioned on my long post in part two of this series, am I just confusing’ the problem’ with ‘the problem saturated story’ – that latter of which might be a phrase that Michael is not yet using at the time this vid was made)

    1. VSNT says:

      Hi Brig: Great question. In the video discussion above we address this issue of Michael turning away from the ‘function of the problem’ and how this represented a huge step away from two of the central cornerstones of family therapy – functionalism and structuralism. Michael and narrative therapy are neither concerned with the aetiology (or cause/function) of the problem nor thinking about a set cure to the problem.

      To the second part of your comment Brig – what is meant by the problem saturated story is a little something different in that it’s meant to describe how the problem story has acted to totalize and take over the persons identity and/or how they are being described. The problem saturated story represents only a partial description of the persons lived experience. Does this help?

      1. brig wood says:

        yes, thank-you for that

  2. brig wood says:

    Hi again, wonderful series of videos, thank you so much – is there any chance of getting a copy of the handout?

    1. VSNT says:

      No chance at all (:

  3. Maureen Boettcher says:

    Impact of social discourse around young black males the same in Canada!

    1. VSNT says:

      Yes I would agree. Internalized racism shows up and is expressed in many different forms in Canada. Thanks Maureen.

  4. Maureen Boettcher says:

    Curious about working with families together where violence has been perpetrated on one of more members by another and positioning the problem.

    1. VSNT says:

      Could you say a bit more about this Maureen.

  5. shook.mike says:

    Hiya, I’m working my way through the developing questions series. A question came up for me in this one that I’ve been struggling with in my work as a narrative therapist and gets touched on briefly in the discussion on perfectionism. It seems to me that most of the writing around externalization is focused on the problem as a problem and only a problem. So for instance, “anger” is the problem and its influence is only negative so when we map the influence we only find negative outcomes of the so-called problem. But in my work, something like anger showing up often is more complicated and nuanced. Like with a young person I’m working with right now, anger is showing up because her father has gotten remarried and stopped spending as much time with her. So the anger is alerting her to an important value and relational ethic around her relationship with her dad. To be fair, the anger is also causing some serious problems in her life and getting in the way of her living out commitments and values, so it’s also not just an important protest. I don’t think that’s going back to some form of functionalism, but allowing the experience of anger to not be confined to being only a problem.

    I wonder if anyone at VSNT might have thoughts on this?


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