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Micheal White(b. December 29, 1948 - d. April 4, 2008) was an Australian psychotherapist. He was been an important figure in the development of narrative therapy and wrote with David Epston ‘Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends’ an important initial text in the field.
He started out as a mechanical draughtsman before moving into social work and developing skills in family therapy.
Michael Kingsley White was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia. His first professional job was as a probation and welfare worker. He earned an undergraduate social work degree from the University of South Australia in 1979 and worked as a psychiatric social worker at the Adelaide Children's Hospital. He founded the Dulwich Centre in 1983 and began a private practice as a family therapist. He continued to be associated with Dulwich Centre until his death.
White was a practicing social worker and co-director of the Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, South Australia, and was author of several books of importance in the field of family therapy and narrative therapy.
In January 2008, White set up the Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre to provide counselling services and training workshops relevant to work with individuals, couples, families, groups and communities and to provide a context for exploring recent developments relevant to narrative practice."
Michael White was also particularly known for his work with children and Indigenous Aboriginal communities, as well as with schizophrenia, anorexia/bulimia, men's violence, and trauma.
Hart (1995) suggested that White's therapeutic career developed in three phases.
- Phase I - up to mid 1980s-- he was heavily influenced by the work of Gregory Bateson, his system of "Strategic Therapy," and the general notions of cybernetics. White's now familiar formulations of "externalizing the problem" and “facilitating a mutually acceptable definition of the problem” arose at this time when he was taking a problem-solving approach to therapeutic change.
- Phase II - During the late 1980s he developed a more person-centered approach emphasizing meaning construction and narrative while, at the same time, developing a deeper appreciation for the social construction of reality and issues of social justice. White becomes concerned with "reauthoring lives" rather than merely solving problems.
- Phase III - From the early 1990s, he has developed narrative therapy, more fully emphasising postmodernist ideas, particularly those of Foucault.(See Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, pg. 1-2)
While early influences included those of systems theory and cybernetics (Gregory Bateson), White's main work drew on a wide range of sources, including literary theory (Jerome Bruner), cultural anthropology (Clifford Geertz, Barbara Myerhoff, Victor Turner), non-structuralist psychology (William James, Lev Vygotsky) and French critical / post-structuralist philosophy (Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault).
Theoretical and practice innovations Edit
Key therapeutic ideas developed by White include 'externalizing the problem', commonly summarised as 'the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem'; 're-authoring' the dominant stories of people's lives; and the idea of 'double-listening' to accounts of trauma: not only the accounts of trauma itself, but how people have responded to trauma.
Key practices of narrative therapy and 'maps' of narrative practice include:
- The statement of position map / externalising conversations map
- Re-authoring conversations
- Re-membering conversations
- Definitional ceremonies
- Scaffolding conversations
- The absent but implicit
- Responding to personal failure conversations
He received the following awards, honours, invitations:
- International Fellow, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- Masters Interview, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Conference, San Francisco, 1989.
- Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, California.
- Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory & Practice Award, American Family Therapy Academy, 1999.
- White, M. (1989). Selected papers. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
- White, M. & Epston,D.(1990). ‘Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends’.W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-70098-4
- Epston,D. & White, M.(1992) Experience, contradiction, narrative, and imagination--Selected papers of David Epston and Michael White, 1989-1991. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications
- White, M. (1995). Re-authoring lives: Interviews and essays. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
- White, M., (1997).Narratives of Therapists' Lives. Dulwich Centre Publications.
- White, M. (2000). Reflections on narrative practices: Essays and interviews. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
- White, M. (1992). Deconstruction and therapy. In D. Epston & M. White, M., Experience, contradiction, narrative, and imagination--Selected papers of David Epston and Michael White, 1989-1991. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
White, M. (1987). Family therapy and schizophrenia: Addressing the "in-the-corner" lifestyle. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Spring, 14-21.
White, M. (1988). The process of questioning: A therapy of literary merit. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Winter, 8-14.
White, M. (1989a). The externalizing of the problem and the re-authoring of lives and relationships. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Summer, 3-20.
- White, M. (2002). Addressing personal failure. International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, Issue #3, 33-76.
- Bubenzer, D. L., & West, J. D. (1994). Michael White and the narrative perspective in therapy. [Family Journal], 2(1), 71-84.
- Hart, B. (1995). Re-authoring the stories we work by: Situating the narrative approach in the presence of the family of therapists. [Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy], 16(4), 181-189. [Online version]
- Munro, C., (1987). White and the cybernetic therapies: New of difference. [Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy], 8 (4), 183-192.
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