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Today was day 1 of the conference on Narrative Practices called ‘A Room full of Stories’. Most conferences in Psychology talk of research in epidemiology, prevalence, diagnostic criteria and intervention, this conference was almost entirely made up of stories, stories of individuals- adults’ and children’s lived experiences, their values, principles, hopes and dreams. It was a space for vulnerability and authenticity, where therapists acknowledge their own while valuing it in the people they work with. Storytellers on stage were tearing up, the audience was emotional, it was conversations that were all heart and soul, redefining concepts of mental health and therapeutic practices.

Learning and unlearning, shaping and reshaping, questioning the knowledge of the therapist and validating experience and knowledge of the people we work with, challenging mainstream ideas of mental illness. These 3 days of workshop and conference have been for me like that feeling when you read a book and the writer has managed to say in words and concepts something that has always been on your mind. It feels like someone reached out to hold your hand, or give you a warm hug. The fact that Van Gogh’s ‘Starry, Starry Night’, quotes by Foucault, Derrida, and numerous other writers and philosophers drove narratives around the therapeutic practice is only a small way in which this conference moved me. They spoke of magic and mystery, imagination and wonderland, of strength and meaning. I was moved to tears during several presentations, feeling for the first time as if I was in the presence of therapists whose ideas and thoughts brought meaning to the work we do.  

Below are some of the concepts, ideas, phrases, quotes, that moved me during these interactions:

 ‘Honouring Diversity’

‘We were as children, singular magicians.’

‘Imaginative know-how’

‘Exercise people’s meaning making skills’

‘Therapy is a micropolitical act in furthering preferred stories.’ (vs dominant stories)

And this quote that summarises beautifully the intention of narrative practices:

‘Which of my feelings are real?

Which of the me’s is me?

The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic and crazy one?

Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed and tired one?

Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.’ – The Unquiet Mind