Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today I spent some time reading a few pages from the book Introducing Narrative Therapy by Cheryl Whyte and David Denborough (Dulwich Centre 1998). It’s a great book. Narrative therapy is a very complicated topic, and that book is an excellent effort to simplify it a bit. The authors do fairly well at keeping both the voice and spirit of narrative therapy. This is not an easy task because narrative therapists speak their work in a very friendly voice. But the writing about the process rarely captures the truly collaborative spirit of the work.
Though I was reading for a specific purpose, the reading had a larger effect than intended. It reminded me of an old hope I’ve had, the hope to write a decent little book on hope-focussed counselling.
On first examination, this doesn’t seem like such an unrealistic hope. They say you always start a book by writing what you know. I don’t think there’s anybody anywhere who could argue that I don’t know hope-focussed counselling. I’ve been doing it for years, teaching others how to do it for years. I am so confident in doing it that I can commit without much fear to conduct a hope-focussed interview on the spur of the moment before a live audience with a volunteer who, until that moment, was totally unknown to me. If I know it well enough to do that, then there really is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to write about it. Is there?
Reason or not, the prospect of writing such a book has daunted me for years. I think of it the way others think of quitting smoking, or running a marathon. In short, I think of it as a desirable thing that I cannot do, and it doesn’t help a bit to know that thinking you can’t do something is a major cause of not being able to do it.
There is no evidence that I can’t do it. In fact, looking at the evidence only proves that the idea that I cannot do this is truly ridiculous because I did once write a little book on the topic. It’s called Key Elements of Hope-Focussed Counselling. It was published in 1998 by the Hope Foundation and it sells for $5.00. It was a decent little book—little being the operative word. In 2009 it is sadly out of date, hinting at the possibilities but not laying them out. So many possibilities have been tested and articulated since then. The core of the work is unchanged, but we now implement hope-focussed strategies with much more precision than we imagined possible at the time when I did that writing.
So even though I have a lot of knowledge, and have even written one small book already, there are some good reasons why I can’t write a decent little book on hope-focussed counseling. Try as I might, and believe me, I have tried, I can’t find a comfortable voice to write in, a voice that speaks like a professional and feels like the real me. The real me is relational, conversational. She is like that in counselling. She is like that when she teaches.
The real me in a counselling session is warm, caring. It’s hard to write about counselling in that voice. When you write about counselling it tends to sound like us and them. “This was what was wrong with them and this is how we cured it.” The real me doesn’t think or talk like that in counselling.
The real me likes to be knowledgeable but doesn’t feel at home standing behind the voice of a lecturing expert. She compensates for this when talking to a group of professionals by saying funny things, quirky things. She can say such things in front of a crowd and get away with it. A mood is created in that contact, a mood that feels quite natural standing alongside a hope focus. I haven’t figured out how to create that mood in writing.
What would a hopeless person say about all this? A hopeless person would say, ”I really can’t write a decent little book about hope-focussed counselling. I tried and it didn’t work. I can’t write such a book in the voice of the real me.”
What would THE HOPE LADY say? My HOPE LADY Blog voice would say, “You can’t publish this writing on the blog because it’s not very hopeful. It’s setting a bad example.”
The teacher in me would say, “Figure this out using hope-focussed strategies. What would a hopeful person say?”
A hopeful person would say “”I haven’t yet figured out how to write a professional book in the voice of the real me.” A hopeful person would say, “I will get that book written when I figure out how to write a professional book in the voice of the real me.” A really hopeful person would say, “I believe I will one day be able to write that book.”
At this point, an honest me would have to admit that I’m not all that hopeful about being able to find a right writing voice. For that reason I really shouldn’t publish this little rant on THE HOPE LADY Blog. But then again, maybe I’ll take a course on writing a book. You never know what I might learn. After all, the world has many voices, and I do really admire this friendly book on narrative therapy by Whyte and Denborough.

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