The narrative therapy approach involves the whole family and especially children by respect in their unique language, problem-solving resources and view of the world. When the grown up talk becomes serious and focused on analysing problems, it is likely to turn children off. The authors of this book ask “what might it mean for us as helpers of families and children to be light on toes when confronting weighty problems” is it possible to play and to maintain a sense of humour while dealing effectively with distressing, frightening, or perilous situations? How can we invite children and family members to bring forth their imaginative and creative resources while coming to grips with the sociocultural complexity of problems? These questions determine the nature of their inquiry into playful approaches to serious problems.
The authors begin by elucidation a basic theory of collaborative narrative play that allows new choices and stories of hope and change to emerge. They encourage appreciation for ways of communication that appeal to children whether in the sand-tray or with puppet “co-therapists” and respect for special and unusual abilities such as the ability to “read hearts” or connect with imaginary friends.
Compelling case examples draw the reader into the book from the first page. Children who might have been labelled belligerent, hyperactive, anxious or out of touch with reality are found to be capable of taming their tempers, controlling frustration, facing fears and using their imaginations to the fullest. Family members discover how to use play to bolster the child’s attempts to “grow up and shrink the problem“ “get the better of trouble” or “catch sneaky poo before it sneaks out” in addition to these case vignettes throughout the first two parts of the book, there are five extended case stories in part three.
Realistic, heartening, pragmatic and just plain fun, narrative therapy encourages children and their families to use resources that have been overlooked to turn the tables on the problems they face.
Therapists, parents, teachers or anyone helping children and families will find that this book turns their thinking around, too – in the most unexpected and illuminating ways.
Jennifer Freeman and Dean Lobovits are marriage, family and child therapists in California, USA.
David Epston is co-director of The Family Therapy Centre in Auckland, New Zealand.
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