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  • Writer's pictureVancouver School For Narrative Therapy VSNT

Alternative Historians, Hard Won Optimism, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

Bergen Harbour, Home of the 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference
I do not see how anyone can go very far . . . who is not ready to risk complete failure. - T. S. Eliot

It would be fair to say I’m not at all interested in blind optimism. The proposition of a smiley faced, unreasoned and unfettered positivity does not fit well with neighbourhood class values I grew in, nor the experience of narrative therapy practice I grew up on.

When I hear blind optimism spoken/promoted (particularly by the ruling class of therapy), the encounter feels properly cringe worthy. A slithering slathered slope of mediocrity descending into desperation. A last sad mile. The last sad smile.

But hard-won optimism?

Now that’s a completely different story all together. Hard-won optimism feels sweaty, dogged, and gritty, I suppose. Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters and Billy Bragg, of course.

A hard-won optimism is when you find yourself up against multifarious complexity and night-time restlessness. Tossing and turning but not turning away. You work for it. Set your mind to it.

The best result, the very best, is when a hard-won optimism comes to realize that any resolve reached may not be quite adequate, enough. There is another step, or two, to take. Always. That’s the merriment.

Where interest and curiosity are given to allowing a story to unfold. Trusting the unknown. Never pushing, prying or poking your nose towards a set outcome. To afford the blessed unknown, a place.

To be patient. To hold a place ready for receiving the unexpected and forgotten. To wait upon what may pop up and may or may not take flight.

Sometimes simple things and memories and bits of wooded wisdom you’ve heard someone say, or you yourself remember saying, return. Newly found. And when the re-membered return is offered a chance to rest a while inside our bones then, suddenly, sometimes, they bend us forward.

As you know my narrative therapy colleagues, this can take time to reach. To arrive there. And sometimes we don’t. Ha! But we try anyway. Waiting ahead is adventure, sweetness and becoming.

Neon sign at Bergen Airport, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference

Originally slated for May 2020 in Bergen Norway, the Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy faculty was all set and ready to bring the international narrative community our Third Nordic Narrative Therapy conference practice exploration with children, families, couples and communities.

This third time around VSNT is co-producing the conference alongside a terrific group of colleagues and friends known as Narativ Practice Bergen. The training workshops include nearly a dozen Norwegian narrative therapist/presenters + the international faculty of VSNT with some workshops presented in Norwegian.

We couldn’t wait to get going.

However, the world-wide COVID phenomenon had other ideas.

Never quite knowing where the pandemic world would take us, we first rescheduled the conference from May 2020 to September 2020. Then rescheduled again to May 2021. We had enthusiasm and hope in the science I suppose.

Now, today, with the advent of double vaccinations, safer international travel beginning to open-up, and larger groups allowed to convene, our favourite conference past-time of eating and drinking, discussing, and having a laugh together has been made possible.

We are a go.

There is only one downside to the May 4-6, 2022 Bergen, Norway conference. Participant registration is limited to 225 people. Why?

Well, the organizing committee unanimously decided to choose Bergen cities Litteraturhuset ("The House of Literature in Bergen") as the site for our Third Nordic Narrative Therapy conference. However, we are confident that the minute you step inside the old brick and timber historical vibe you will completely understand the decision we’ve made.

Litteraturhuset Bergen is Norway's first and Europe's largest house of its kind that is dedicated to literature in the widest sense of the word. Bergen Litteraturhuset is run by an independent and non-commercial foundation aiming to generate interest for literature, reading – and now - narrative therapy.

I’ve had the great fortune of presenting narrative couple therapy workshops at Litteraturhuset and, not only is it my favourite spot in the world to teach but, it just may be the coolest training venue, ever.

Bookstore and Litteraturhuse, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference

Michael White, Alternative Historian

Lately I’ve been thinking how, in so many ways, narrative therapists are the unacknowledged historians of our time. Primarily because of how we receive, conceive, question and counter-story all the wee, tiny, little anonymous moments that will never make it into the history books. I suppose the very best of you make every attempt to shape your narrative practice selves into alternative historians. Michael White often cited Pierre Bordieu’s term of exoticizing the domestic. On a side note - I was with Michael in Washington DC the first time I heard him utter the phrase exoticizing the domestic. I thought the idea was brilliant because what I actually thought I heard MW say was eroticizing the domestic. Ha! We had a great laugh over that one. Anyway, Michael snatched up Bordieu’s famous statement and deposited it directly into the heart of narrative practice by directing session conversations towards rendering the familiar and taken for granted story of the client, strange. Where narrative therapy practice explores avenues to assist the familiar becoming unfamiliar. And where, it turns out, we found how the unfamiliar often brings forth the dispossessed, neglected and the all-important subordinate, story. So often the beauty and value of a narrative therapy session is found in the stories we relationally travel the session into that not everybody in the professional therapy world wants to listen to and/or solicits being told. However, for narrative therapists, our political, relational and practice difference can be so utterly breath-taking when we find the session going down roads you just know the person’s you’re speaking with have never travelled down, before. During our last Foundations 5-day training the VSNT faculty taught in late September/October 2021, I began thinking how there was a marvellously unusual side benefit for the fashionably up-to-date narrative training participant. This being how much they can benefit from being ignored by the modern-day fields of mental health power and politic. What? Let me explain: narrative therapists embrace relational, non-individualist, contextualized narrative practice in the face of the popular unholy marriage between new public management and neoliberalism. And for many, this can sometimes be upsetting. And the benefit of feeling upset, for me, is the desire to go further into all the places where we are told we shouldn't go.

Bergen Mountain Landscape, Norway, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference

More VSNT Certificate Training for 2021 & Winter/Spring 2022

** Before we begin, the VSNT faculty would like to make clear to our narrative therapy community how VSNT Operations Director Robin Evan Willis is responsible for ALL the heavy creative lifting and participant interconnecting, receiving, consoling, and reassuring that makes VSNT training courses possible. Thank you so very much Robin.**

Join hundreds and hundreds of narrative therapists from around the globe engaging and interacting with over 500 narrative therapy workshops, discussion groups and VSNT faculty Live therapy sessions. Totally inexpensive and a veritable Netflix for Narrative Therapists.

"On behalf of a younger generation of narrative therapists, thank you!I can’t believe what an incredible resource this is! We could spend every day of the rest of our lives watching and still not run out of material. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say you’ve created a heaven on earth for narrative practitioners. With the click of a button I can find myself surrounded by beloved ancestors, even those I never met, but whose blood seems to run through my veins and whose legacy I am a part of." - Laurie Markham, Co-author: Narrative Therapy in Wonderland.

Applied Skills for Narrative Therapy Certificate Course

18 CE credits granted by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association 80% SOLD OUT

  • Applied Skills of Narrative Practice is taught by veteran narrative therapy therapist/supervisors Stephen Madigan & David Rock Nylund alongside VSNT’s brilliant resident philosopher Todd May.

  • Applied Skills for Narrative Practice offers participants daily LIVE demonstration counter-story narrative therapy interviews. All participant's experience the faculties transparent, critical and encouraging supervisory reflections and feedback regarding their work developing narrative therapy questions and therapeutic letters.

Dates: November 12th-14th, 2021

Time: 8:15 am - 2:15 pm, Pacific Daylight Time (Vancouver, Canada)

Location: Classes will be taught live through Zoom video conferencing

"The training elevated my narrative practice. Theory and application came together as I refined my narrative questions and practiced navigating sessions guided by narrative principles. I was having a lot of breakthroughs in client sessions afterward.” - Recent Participant

Foundations of Theory and Practice Certificate Course

30 CE credits granted by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association In 2021 all 3 Foundations courses sold out 3 weeks ahead of start date

Dates: February 24-26th, March 4-5th 2022 1/2 Day Follow-up: March 19, 2022 Time: 8:15 am - 2:15 pm, Pacific Daylight Time (Vancouver, BC) Location: Classes will be taught live through Zoom video conferencing Your narrative therapy practice learning is guided by five world-class narrative therapists, a brilliant critical race scholar, and one highly imaginative continental philosopher. Participants receive an inspired, practice based, interactive experience on the relational intersection between narrative therapy theory and practice. Teaching Faculty: Rosa Arteaga, (Canada/Mexico), Harjeet Badwall (Canada), Helene Grau (Denmark), Stephen Madigan (Canada), David Marsten (USA), Todd May (USA), David Nylund (USA)

"I studied the narrative work of the faculty recently in grad school so to see them work live and hear them show and discuss their tapes in real time was beyond exciting. Thank you to the faculty for being humble and funny and encouraging our questions. The whole thing was an unforgettable experience." - Recent Participant

Advanced Narrative Practice Certificate Course

30 CE credits granted by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association In 2021 the Advanced Practice course sold out 3 weeks ahead of start date

Dates: March 25-27 & April 2-3, 2022 1/2 Day Questions & Follow up: TBA Time: 8:15am - 2:15pm PST Location: Classes will be taught live through Zoom video conferencing While adhering to Michael White's conceptual practice framework, advanced practice participants interact and learn how VSNT faculty's narrative therapy practice and theoretical understandings have dramatically changed. Inspired through the work of one critical race scholar, one trans identified community organizer, a brilliant continental philosopher, and five world class narrative therapists, the VSNT faculty come together to teach, demonstrate, and discuss how and why they are reshaping the ideas and practice of narrative therapy. ** The faculty welcomes all participants at all levels of practice experience and understanding to join us in this training. Teaching Faculty: Rosa Arteaga (Mexico/Canada), Harjeet Badwall (Canada), Helene Grau (Denmark), Stephen Madigan (Canada), David Marsten (USA), Todd May (USA), Aaron Munro (Canada), David Nylund (USA)

Another incredible tour de force by the VSNT faculty of intellectual and emotional interrogation in the best sense of that word. Loved all the new narrative ideas - wow! - and all the incredible new and exciting places they took me. The Advanced Practice course was nothing short of stunning!!!! - Recent Participant

Relationships are Relational: Narrative Therapy Informed Relational Interviewing with Conflicted Couple Relationships

A Seminar with Stephen Madigan, PhD + International guests

Dates: May 27th-28th, 2022

Time: 8:15 am - 2:15 pm, Pacific Daylight Time (Vancouver, BC)

Location: Classes will be taught live through Zoom video conferencing

  • Participants learn through an experiential closeup study of Stephen’s wide range of relational interviewing practices with conflicted couple relationships. Each separate relational interviewing practice is highlighted through recent videos he filmed in Canada, Norway and the USA.

  • Stephen’s creation of a narrative therapy informed Relational Interviewing practice is viewed internationally as refreshingly original and relational, decidedly non-individualist and post-structural, and situated within compassion, cultural contexts, practiced values, and a little bit of common sense.

"Early on in the workshop, the majority of us began to realize that what we were witnessing in the Relational Interviewing practices Stephen was presenting was a huge and revolutionary step in the field of couple therapy. And not only that, we also realized his relational ideas were the next evolutionary step in narrative therapy itself!! I rank this workshop in the top 3 I’ve ever attended. Thanks.” - Recent Participant

Historic Bergen Houses, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference

Upcoming: 6 Month Relational Supervision Certificate Course

Starting Date: TBA in 2022

VSNT faculty members are steadily, painstakingly and joyfully working on improving/fine tuning our craft of therapy, every day. Most are also heavily sought after supervisors/consultants/presenters. So, it’s all a bit strange that we’ve never come together as a group to create an in depth, long term, certificate course in narrative therapy informed Relational Supervision. Fear not.

Six months ago I found myself contemplating the idea of a long term VSNT Relational Supervision certificate course, in earnest. I began drawing up a number of outlines on my trusty whiteboard (where all ideas of earnest start out.) I then began contacting VSNT faculty for creative input. We’re not quite where we want to be just yet, but we are getting there.

Sometime in 2022, VSNT will present you with a delicious main course of longterm, craft focused, original, intense, non-individualist, narrative therapy informed Relational Supervision. Please stay tuned.

Well, we’ve come to the end my friends and I’d like to send out a warm thank you to everyone for showing up. Cheers.

If you’d ever feel like contacting me directly please write to:

Take care.



Historic District, Bergen, Norway, 3rd Nordic Narrative Therapy Conference


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