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  • Writer's pictureVancouver School For Narrative Therapy VSNT

Live Conference Update, Foundations, Applied Skills Of Practice +

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

The BIG LIVE Narrative Therapy Conference

Hello Everyone. As promised, below is a second conference focused newsletter installation that introduces readers to a few more sweet and salty Big Narrative conference TC 17 presenters, and their presentations. Like many therapists in our international narrative community, I find myself rather partial to particular expressions of the practice. I know you likely already know this, about me. And without question, you yourself are at the same time drawn towards specific representations of the work. The question is, why? Why this practice and not so much that one. I remember writing my doctoral dissertation on the political representations of narrative therapy questions. And the more I studied the ecology of non-individualist post-structural ideas that influenced the intention, direction, and purposed action of the question, the more creativity, possibility, and beauty I experienced. The questions I studied had a definite structure, rhythm, and interlocking political and contextual relationship that wove a relationship with the pragmatic and aesthetic. This is what I am drawn to when I watch demonstrations of a narrative therapist’s work. All that being said, I’ve always been a fan of David Marsten’s narrative family therapy practice. Part of the fandom rests on how David continues to explore this vital therapeutic tradition at the very time the art and practice of family therapy has, for many social and political reasons, is being pushed aside, lost. David is steadfastly creating ways to press the practice expression of narrative family therapy, further. Many of you know him as the talented creator and Clinical Director of Miracle Mile Community Practice in Los Angeles, California who has practiced narrative therapy for 30 years. And many of you have also read his co-authored book: Narrative Therapy in Wonderland: Connecting with Children’s Imaginative Know-how. Never one to rest on his laurels, for this Big TC 17 conference David offers participants his latest narrative ideas/work on a fascinating practice he calls darkening the landscape of problems. He calls the first of two workshops: Recognizing problems as insurmountable. He writes that as narrative practitioners we can find ourselves operating from a stance of hope and possibility. However, the fascinating question he explores is “what do we do then when problems are intractable?” The situation he questions often involves relationships with chronic pain, illness, and other problems and problem contexts including the enduring and ongoing strategies/impact of social injustice. So - what might the narrative therapist hope for then? Hmmm. David’s workshop intends to focus on the negative and its potential. With an interest in darkening the landscape this workshop demonstrates through discussion, slides and session video what can sustain us when facing the impossible. David Marsten (USA) ~ Next up in the highlight reel is a presentation by Aaron Munro called: ` Street Talk – Reflections on Resistance to Single Storied Identities. I’ve known Aaron for long time. He is many things: my close friend, wildly entertaining, highly respected, queer and trans, strong in his values, funny as hell, and usually the wiliest cat in a room full of wily cats. Aaron recently wrapped up two profoundly creative (albeit gruelling) decades as an activist and public agency director working with people without housing/insecure housing on the streets of Canada's poorest neighbourhood - Vancouver's Downtown East Side. Think about that. Throughout his journey, he met hundreds of people who, often from a young age, were put in the position of resisting often violent and subjugating identities/descriptions/ideas about who 'they' are. His plan is to share the stories of hard to house and shelter-less people he met who, despite constant exposure to deficit and singular identity conclusions, adamantly refused to be dismissed and ignored. Aaron invites you into the communities he met and the politics and values that frame the work he does. Don’t miss this one. Aaron Munro (Canada) ~ Through many VSNT sponsored conference years, if you lived locally, you wanted (when possible) to create and co-present with people you work with in therapy. There have a been a slew of powerful insider workshops presented through this format. So, I live locally and so do the co-presenters – and here is what we have come up with. Couple Therapy: Relational Letter Writing to the Couple's Relationship. Our co-presented workshop demonstrates the practice of narrative therapy informed relational interviewing (NIRI) writing relational letters directly to the couple's relationship. We also explore the couple’s individual experience and performance of these letters written from the relationship’s perspective, in therapy. I’m excited to be co-presenting with this super sharp local queer couple who brought their relationship to therapy. Together we outline the intimate practice and experience of this unique relational letter writing practice and the exquisite response their relationship had, writing back to them. We’ll then be interviewed by Helene on what the experience 'made possible' between couple therapist, couple, and the relationship. Helene Grau Kristensen (Denmark), Guest couple (Canada), & Stephen Madigan (Canada) ~ Big narrative TC conferences would not be the same without giving participants opportunities to interact with profound theoretical discussions that continually, since the very 1st conference, have shaped the practice of narrative therapy. So how about we step towards one theoretical workshop and one of the three conference keynote presentations. The workshop pairs Rolf Sundet a Professor in the Department of Health, Social and Welfare Studies in Norway wiith Todd May a Professor of Philosophy in North Carolina. They can be assessed as charming, deliberately hilarious, and serious intellectual heavy weights. Seriously, if you want an extraordinary theoretical experience, where hard to imagine ideas are explained in plain language that you can take up in your practice then - it really doesn’t get any better than this. I can’t yet (or ever!) begin to explain Rolf and Todd’s thinking on the work of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. However, I will let you know that Michael White was reading Deleuze a few years before he died and both Alan Jenkins and John Winslade introduced VSNT conference audiences to the work of Deleuze during 2006 (Alan) and (John) in 2007. Todd and Rolf are harsh outspoken critics of neo-liberalism and a high-octane team when presenting these big ideas together. They are old fashion drinkers (of the named cocktail kind not the 4-martini lunch kind – at least I think so) who are both very active in issues of justice. In their workshop Discussions on Difference and Identity. Rolf and Todd introduce participants to Gilles Deleuze who is now widely recognised with creating one of the most innovative projects in the second half of the twentieth century. Narrative participants might connect to a familiar narrative practice ring when Todd writes in his book on Deleuze, "The destiny of philosophical concepts and philosophical positions lie not with truth or falsity of their claims but with the vistas for thinking and living they open up for us". The workshop will focus on one very important idea Deleuze has – and this is on the subject difference (and identity). They plan to move participants away from the question "how should we act?" and towards a question of "how might we live?" The stress is now placed on ‘possibilities of living’ that can only assume the form and style of a radical experimentation. The position is to create our relational lives beyond the limits our history has set for us. Yup, I probably butchered their workshop description and now face ponying up to buy them old fashions throughout the conference. Treat yourselves and let this theoretical workshop wash over you. Trust me. ~ Historically TC conference keynote speakers and topics are carefully chosen. As keynote speakers they hold a particular conference responsibility. And this is to lead all of us at the conference forward. The theoretical keynote pairs together two Social Work Professors who are long-time practicing narrative therapists. They are also highly engaging, very entertaining, and fully/completely committed to issues of justice. I grew up in narrative therapy and have travelled many miles (literally and figuratively) with Rock. He is formidably rock solid in both practice and theory. And as an important point of reference, he loves to buy rounds of welcome to the conference drinks for conference participants. Duly noted (: I was introduced to Harjeet a few years ago by way of a social work Professor from Toronto, Maureen Bottecher (that flew out to train with VSNT). At one point everyone enrolled in the training were gathered together with the faculty at a bar in Gastown. At one point Maureen took me aside with powerful enthusiasm and emphatically stated – you must meet Harjeet Badwall!! - and you must ask her to teach with your faculty at VSNT. Hmm. Curious, I wrote Harjeet the following week and we arranged to meet over Zoom. Thank you Maureen for introducing me to someone I have come to highly regard, deeply respect, and continue to learn from. During our first chat Harjeet spoke about how her life’s work has focused on examining stories and structures of systemic oppression, and a teaching and work practice aimed at social justice, anti-racism, equity and anti-violence. Harjeet Badwall lives in Toronto and works from an interlocking analysis of violence and oppression and situates her practice within critical race theories, anti-colonial studies, and post-structuralism. Rock Nylund lives in Sacramento and is trained in cultural criticism having earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies with a designated emphasis in feminist theory, queer theory and masculinity studies. Although they were well acquainted with each other’s writings, they first met together during an interview on They found an excitable, respectful relational common ground and have been teaching together ever since (and/or whenever they can). The title of their keynote is: Race, Power Relations, Anti-essentialism and Identity. Harjeet begins the keynote with her research on race, racism, and social work practice. She examines the ways in which whiteness permeates the social work profession and therapy, through colonial continuities, white supremacy, and neoliberal individualism. Harjeet will present the concept of interlocking oppressions and utilize the work of critical race scholars to examine how Narrative practices may support anti-colonial and anti-racist conversations in our therapeutic work. Rock will then highlight cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, post-colonial theorist, Gayatri Spivak, and feminist scholar Ana Louise Keating’s and their ideas on identity, difference, and social justice--and how their ideas provide a framework for therapists from the dominant culture to act not simply as “allies, but committed co-conspirators in relationship to whiteness, hetero/cisnormativity, and other forms of interlocking oppressions. So - how does this sound? Are you ready? Buckle up. Well, this ends another introductory snapshot highlighting a few more of the TC 17 Big Narrative conference presenters. I know I haven’t really done their exceptional talents and charm, justice. To a person, they are so much larger than life when you meet, chat and mingle with them, in person. Until next time. Many thanks. Stephen PS. If you have conference questions please write to Deb at: If you’d care to write me directly:

The BIG LIVE Narrative Conference

Granville Island, Vancouver BC October 27-29th, 2023

65% Sold out! Get your tickets today!

In 1993 VSNT hosted the first ever international narrative therapy conference. Finally, after 22 conferences and 100's of training courses + 1000's & 1000's of client session hours and a long 3.5 year COVID layoff, we are inspired to bring you the very best narrative therapy thinkers and therapists from across the world - LIVE! All practice based workshops are skill focused and designed to demonstrate (with videos and unaltered transcripts) the latest developments in narrative therapy theory and practice with children, families, couple relationships, groups, and communities. Join VSNT each evening for the very best post conference day gatherings. Connect, have a drink, relax, and meet up with presenters and community. Sending you a personal heartfelt invitation to join us. Dates: October 27-29th, 2023 Time: 8:15 am - 3 pm, Pacific Daylight Time (Vancouver, BC) Location: Arts Umbrella - Centre for Youth and the Performing Arts & the Granville Island Hotel Professional: $600 CAD Students/ members: $500 CAD

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