Interested in, and influenced by Michael White and David Epston, the originators of Narrative Therapy, (https://dulwichcentre.com.au/what-is-narrative-therapy/) I have come to recognize that the people I work with, are indeed the experts of their own lives. I remain committed to all I can do to respect this notion as I work collaboratively, whatever the problem or concern.
Narrative Therapists have a saying, "The problem is the problem, the person is not problem." I’ve found that this non-blaming way of thinking opens up more space to work collaboratively in dealing with life problems. I owe much to my teachers and colleagues in the realm of Narrative practices, especially Jill Freedman and Gene Combs. They are internationally recognized, yet I’m lucky enough to be in within bike riding distance to their coach-house office in Evanston.
We are all not all the same! Cultural, ethnic, racial, social class, gender, sexual preference...and many other factors, shape the stories of who we are, what we value, our privilege, and what we know to be true. We are certainly not all treated equally, or fairly. These social realties are often left out of most psychotherapy, and what have come to the known "best practices," but these considerations are a cornerstone to narrative practice.
Another aspect of diversity, that I think is often under appreciated is that our individual brains are unique. Perhaps there is really no such thing really as "neuro-typical" person. Since the mid 1990’s I have had the opportunity to expand my work with clients who learn and process life experience in unique ways, known as "learning differences." My background in this area, in combination with Narrative Therapy ways of thinking have yielded many new possibilities and useful outcomes in my collaborative work. I enjoy my time with these often remarkable people.
In this 21st century, there continue to be new discoveries about the brain, the "hardware" of our cognitions and emotions. Alongside these developments have been the re-emergence of prescientific ancient wisdoms regarding meditation and awareness. Today these practices are known as "mindfulness" approaches, and I’m happy to share and work out the best ways to utilize these ideas with the people I work with.
"The Diagnosis Disclaimer" - A Diagnosis does not define who you are, have been, or will become”... is something you’ll see on my monthly statement. I place the diagnosis code there to validate insurance reimbursement, but I like to talk openly with people about what this means to them, and perhaps how to position themselves in a preferred way in regards to this label.
I learn so much from my clients. Being a social worker, and now a social work teacher, has allowed me the opportunity to grow and change over time in ways that few professions provide. I am deeply honored to do this meaningful work. Thank-you.
Joshua F. Mark LCSW
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