Recognizing the power of children’s imaginations in narrative therapy.
Therapists may marvel at children's imaginative triumphs, but how often do they recognize such talents as vital to the therapy hour? Should therapists reserve a space for make-believe only when nothing is at stake, or might it be precisely those moments when something truly matters that imagination is most urgently needed?
This book offers an alternative to therapeutic perspectives that treat children as vulnerable and helpless. It invites readers to consider how the imaginative gifts and knowledge of children, when supported by the therapist and family, can bring about dramatic change.
The book begins with an account of the foundations of narrative theory. It explains how such elements as language, characterization, and suspense contribute to the coherence of a story and bring young people into focus.
Each subsequent chapter provides specific suggestions for the practice of narrative therapy. Examples of the difficulties children face are offered, along with narrative interventions and tips for overcoming common barriers that can arise along the way. Readers will learn a variety of ready-to-implement strategies, including how to personify problems, compose letters to affirm children's identities, summon fairies to lend a helping hand, and many more. Sample dialogues between the authors, children, and their parents bring the application of each practice to life, illuminating how even the most stubborn problem can be outwitted, sometimes by mischievous means.
With robust professional insight, Narrative Therapy in Wonderland will aid any practitioner in calling on children's imaginative know-how. How often can a young person be spotted diving headlong into a world of fantasy? This book explores the extraordinary fact that these young people may, upon arrival in Wonderland, be far better equipped to take on even dire challenges than when they remain "up above."
Reviews and Endorsements:
“The vivid transcripts, exquisitely crafted questions, dramatic surprises, and insightful prose of Narrative Therapy in Wonderland demonstrates something children so intuitively know: it is in the imagination that we become the most powerful version of ourselves, a version that transcends our preconceptions, assumptions, and problems.” — PsychCentral
“This exquisitely crafted text, written by master clinicians, initiates readers into a narrative approach that insists upon mystery and wonder as indispensible tools in the therapeutic process. Through a series of beautifully narrated vignettes from clinical practice, it showcases imagination as an 'ideal traveling companion for young people.' It is not only pitch-perfect in balancing theory, compelling exemplar, and succinct advice for therapists and parents, but also compulsively readable, a compliment generally reserved for popular novels rather than professional texts.” — Cheryl Mattingly, author of The Paradox of Hope: Journeys through a Clinical Borderland
“This book is a treasure trove for therapists. As you turn its pages you will find bright baubles, sparkling jewels, and finely crafted gold leaf. What else would you expect in Wonderland? You will also encounter problem monsters, and children with strange powers. You must learn to counter the pathological, the dull, and the unfair, but don't worry! This book of dramatic surprises will help you immensely. Put it down at your own risk.” — John Winslade, PhD, Professor of Counseling at California State University, San Bernadino
“From the get-go, engaging prose makes this book fun—yes, fun!—to read. Vivid transcripts reveal the powers children have when their imagination, ingenuity, and sense of humor are engaged. Creativity is central to narrative therapy, as is moving past one-size-fits-all solutions. It is refreshing to learn how the creative capacities of each child and family can be channeled towards elegant and often unique resolution of the challenges they face, and to see the 'wonderfulness' of the individual child so centrally featured. This book affirms the effectiveness of collaboration between adults and children in the realm of imaginary know-how.” — Jennifer Freeman, MFT, REAT, coauthor of Playful Approaches to Serious Problems
“More than a must-read for clinical professionals, and more than a supportive guide to parenting, Narrative Therapy in Wonderland is a book for anyone who faces Problems and seeks strategies for overcoming them. The authors' simple yet far-reaching message is that our Problems are not in ourselves. Our Problems are out there, external and tenacious. But Problems can be outwitted, and this book shows how. Wonderland elevates narrative therapy from a professional clinical practice to a way of life.” — Arthur W. Frank, PhD, author of The Wounded Storyteller and Letting Stories Breathe
Introduction: Kindling Our Imaginations: Down the Rabbit Hole We Go!
Chapter 1. Elements of Narrative: The Plot Thickens
Chapter 2. In Pursuit of Children's Virtues: The Wonderfulness Interview
Chapter 3. Meeting Problems in Wonderland
Chapter 4. Where's the Fun in It?
Chapter 5. The Therapist's Imagination Lends Inspiration
Chapter 6. The Relational Composition of Identity: Letters, Testimony, and Ritual
Chapter 7. Weird Science: Imagination Lost
Chapter 8. It's All Mom's Fault! A Figment of the Imagination
Chapter 9. Grow Me Up—Grow Me Down: Travails with Sneaky Poo and Sneaky Wee
Chapter 10. "Somebody Needs to Pay!" A Young Man's Coming of Age in a Culture of Male Domination and Entitlement
Chapter 11. Making Progress Toward Progress
Epilogue. Imagination Revived
About the Authors:
David Marsten, LCSW, is the director of the Miracle Mile Community Practice in Los Angeles.
David Epston, M.A., C.Q.S.W. is coauthor of Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends (1990) and Playful Approaches to Serious Problems (1997). He is a visiting professor at the School of Community Studies, UNITEC Institute of Technology in Auckland, and is the codirector of the Family Therapy Centre in Auckland.
Laurie Markham, MA, MFT, is a practicing therapist and teaches in master’s programs at Cal State University San Bernardino and Pepperdine University.