Why I Run A Narrative Therapy Training Program
People ask me why I run a training program in narrative therapy. It takes an enormous amount of work, doesn’t earn much money and the administration of it can be a bit of a headache. So why do I continue? The first word that comes to mind is passion. I have this myself, but what I am referring to here is the passion and excitement that I receive from the participants in the course. It can be a bit hard to get started with Narrative. It was created by highly intellectual people who were steeped in philosophy, anthropology, feminist thought and literary theory. Along the way, terminology has been created to describe ideas, which is often times confusing itself. That being said, it takes someone to sift through this to get a grasp of all that narrative has to offer. It’s like pulling back a curtain and seeing beauty hidden behind. Who are these people that take the steps to do this? Well, it’s often people who have experienced the ideas first-hand. People say they were in a class or workshop and were surprised by a presentation of the ideas. Others say that they know someone at their workplace whose work intrigued them. Others experienced narrative therapy in a therapy context themselves and after seeing its effect on their life, are now seeking to use it help others. Often then, people signing up for a nine-month course in narrative therapy, have some introduction to it ahead of time. And as you can see, they are a select group since they have had to be in the right place at the right time, known a narrative therapist either as a colleague or experienced narrative as a client. They have had to some form of compelling experience with narrative to be interested in pursuing the ideas. We can talk later about ways to make this easier and get the ideas out there is a smoother fashion but this is how I see it today. Needless to say, when it comes to August, I get pretty nervous and people around me can attest to it. Will people sign up? Will there enough people who have passed these hurdles to commit to a nine-month program. Well, it’s August again and right on cue I am doing it again. Thankfully each year the participation in our program grows and I can only hope that this is the case this year again. But going back to why I run a training program... When everyone has registered for the course and we get started, participants find their starting point. The level 1 program accommodates people with a wide range of experience. Some have had minimal exposure to the ideas while others have been practicing narrative for years but want to re-focus on the basics. We offer level 2 and level 3 programs for people who have more experience. The level 1 program is geared to meet people where they are at and the 7 monthly practice sessions are the heart of the program. From October to April, each of these practice sessions addresses a different narrative principle. And the learning builds each month, as these individual principles combine with the other principles. We start with the foundational principles in the first three sessions. This sets the backdrop of conversations which is clearly different from other approaches. Then the final four sessions allow for stepping into the beauty and creativity of the ideas, addressing problems, discovering alternatives. These alternatives then get supported so that they become the norm. This is when I see the passion I referenced earlier and what makes it all worthwhile. I see and hear it from the participants. The ideas click, there is a glimmer in the eye and excitement as people talk about how the ideas are influencing their life and work. It’s at this point and after that, I start to receive emails about how participants take the ideas, make them their own and apply them to their own life and work setting. This is when the creativity flows, as people push the ideas forward seeing new ways of implementing them. Most importantly, they start to discuss the results they are seeing on the people’s lives. They share client stories where conversations move to places they hadn’t before and how it affects their clients’ lives. They also talk about the effect on their personal life since these ideas start to filter into these relationships as well. During these practice sessions, the participants experience narrative exercises with fellow participants from around the globe through our online programming. We have people in the room in Minnesota asking narrative questions to someone in Iceland, Australia, South Africa, Trinidad - you name it! Since the exercises are first-person, these conversations can be very personal and over the nine months, participants form relationships with other participants that continue after the course is over. These conversations lead to cross-cultural dialogue where different perspectives are learned and appreciated. Participants often comment this was a hidden surprise that they had not expected from the course, but from which they benefited greatly. During the course, participants also have the opportunity to hear from well-respected experienced narrative presenters through our online format. Yes, back to the headache part, sometimes the internet is a bit tricky, but it allows an experience that is not otherwise possible at the same cost. Participants, from all different parts of the globe themselves, look past the glitches and continually give feedback about how much they appreciate hearing from presenters who have been so intently studying and living, and working with narrative ideas. This is the passion, this is what makes it worth it, this is why I keep doing this year after year. And it’s a helpful reminder in August to remember that in December and January, almost to a tee, I will be experiencing this again!
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