The mental health team at Ummeed Child Development Center has started this blog as a way to share and explore narrative practices in the Indian context.
Built firmly on the belief that every child has a right to a meaningful life and every parent has a right to dream, Ummeed Child Development Center is a non-profit organization formed with the specific objective of providing trans-disciplinary care to children with developmental disabilities. The center helps children with a wide range of disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, Learning Disability, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder etc.
The mental health team began using narrative practices with children and families in 2006. We have found it to be extremely effective in the Indian context. Narrative therapy is a respectful, non-blaming approach to counseling which centers people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, beliefs, values, and abilities that will allow them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives (http://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/what-is-narrative-therapy.html).
We’re hoping for this blog to be a platform to connect with professionals all over India using narrative practices, to share stories with each other of working with children, individuals and families, to learn different ways in which we use this approach within our culture, to share updates about various training programs happening in the country, and to share online resources about narrative practices.
We thought we would begin by sharing a story of a 12 year old boy, Sanjay and our work using narrative practices. Sanjay’s mother is the sole earning member of the family, she has never been to a formal school and works very hard to make ends meet. Some of the family’s concerns were poor academic performance, non-compliance with medications and behaviour issues. He was diagnosed with ADHD and referred for counseling by a developmental pediatrician at Ummeed Child Development Center.
One of the key principles of the narrative approach is to view the problem as separate from the person. This is done through externalizing conversations (http://www.dulwichcentre.com.au/externalising.html). Sessions with Sanjay involved separating the identity of the problem (ADHD) from Sanjay’s identity. After describing the problem and seeing the effects of the problem on his life, he decided that he didn’t want some parts of the problem to rule his life. The next steps involved putting to words valued conclusions in the form of hopes and dreams about how he wanted life to be, if the problem wasn’t present. He spoke about a better relationship with his mother, teachers and friends, to study and become an Engineer and to buy a big house where he could live with his mother happily. These valued conclusions about his life opened possibilities for Sanjay to take action in relation to the problem and build a new story line that kept him closer to the dreams that he had for his life. This summary illustrates application of narrative practices in an Indian context.
If you’re interested to know more about his story, please refer to the poster below. We would love to hear from you – your questions, comments and reflections about the use of narrative practices and Sanjay’s story.