As a part of her final presentation for Ummeed’s year-long Mental Health Training Program in Narrative Therapy titled ‘Rescuing Utopia: Conversations Using The Re-authoring Map’, Shweta Srinivasan shares her experience of imbibing narrative ideas and practices into her work.
Raji Manjari Pokhrel, one of our Mental Health Training Program – 7 participants, is a Kathmandu-based mental health worker providing in person and online psychosocial counseling.
Raji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In her article, published in The Kathmandu Post, she expresses her thoughts on, when we instill in children an unquestionable respect for adults, we render them powerless.
Influenced by Narrative Ideas and gratitude, this piece is written by Shaneel Mukerji, Special Educator at Mental Health Foundation, Kolkata.
Recently I went on a holiday alone. There was some protest from my nearly 6 – year old daughter, because I was off on a solo holiday and she was on summer break too! My 20 – month old son was in the dark about what all of this really meant.
While on this holiday someone asked me how it was going, and to share what was special about it. And I knew immediately. It was privilege.
We mostly count our blessings and are grateful for these. But also thinking about privileges helps one stay grounded to certain facts. I believe it helps us move away from ideas that are mainly abstract, focus away from ourselves, and therefore be more connected to people and the world around us.
I have a supportive hands – on spouse, children who are secure enough emotionally for me to be away from them, and people who will pitch in and help when the need arises. I have homes with ‘friends like family’ both young and old to visit, and the luxury to take off from work on occasion. And most importantly, I feel empowered enough to do this without guilt. So many things…
People’s belief systems will attribute finding myself in this life to luck, karma, or a host of other reasons. But once in this life, there are histories, people, and circumstances, which have kept me in it.
I am mindful of the women I have known, or known about. That many had the freedom to make certain choices. And those that did not have this freedom, or did not make those choices, shared how things may have been different if they had.
I am mindful of the men. Those empowered enough to make different choices, stick to their choices, or allow others’ choices to be their own.
I am mindful of all the circumstances; happy and sad, easy and difficult, life changing and mundane, that influenced the choices these individuals and those before them made.
I am mindful of all the nurturing relationships I have benefited from. I am mindful of all the harmful relationships that I have learnt from. I am mindful of privilege that does not always mean a life devoid of trials.
I am mindful of the physical spaces I live in. Where the access to places we care about, the happiness and safety of my family, and the security of our work, are a given for today.
I am mindful of the privilege of education and literacy. Of having had access to ideas and conversations, and the luxury of time to share in these.
Being mindful of all of these privileges, which we are given with little or no effort on our part, will hopefully influence the choices we now make. What we prioritize in our lives, what we hope to pass on to others, and who we stand in solidarity with. That recognizing our privileges means recognizing differences in circumstances, in histories and between people. And through all the choices we make we shall maybe add little variations to the stories told, and thereby influence the larger stories of life and it’s people.
About the Author –
Shaneel began working in Special Education in Scotland, UK, in 2001 and focuses mainly on individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Her work includes parent and teacher support, working in partnership with the child and their significant others. This involves liaison between home, school and professionals involved with the child. One of her main areas of interest is providing school/organisation-based solutions for children with ASC.
Shaneel currently works with the Mental Health Foundation, Kolkata Team. She is a key member of the training initiatives of MHF, training teachers, carers and professionals on Autism and related Developmental Disorders.
She has been involved in research projects on ASC and community mental health under the umbrella of her organisation, Creating Connections. She was the Principal Investigator on India’s first large-scale research project on the Prevalence Estimate of ASC funded by Autism Speaks.
Her second job is that of a Latin Dance instructor, which she does with her husband who is a full-time dancer. She uses this platform to raise awareness about ASC within the community, and working on inclusion for those who require a social outlet in a sheltered informed environment. She also enjoys writing and editing, and does this as often as possible in her work space as well.
You can get in touch with her at email@example.com
Contact number – +91 9830941233
On 12th May 2019, sitting amidst a roomful of 30 persons, gathered to spend the day in continuing skill training in Narrative Practices, I was transported to the cafe seats 3 years back. It was the day I met Raviraj and Jehanzeb to discuss the possibilities of bringing the Narrative training to Kolkata, with Mental Health Foundation as its host. And here we were, two years down the line. It was the first time the two batches met each other for a skill training class with our mentor duo R-J. Since our group was large we had to seek out a space outside MHF to contain us. A third batch was about to start a day later. All these were adding to the heady feeling of fruition of possibilities. It all culminated in all of us greeting R-J with a roar of excitement as they walked through the door straight from the airport.
Our collective is named Kol-katha. A name that is becoming synonymous with a safe space to contain the challenging skill training journey, a space where we are among friends, a space where hands are held and new directions were found together. A collective with a single focus of discussing and delving into Narrative ideas and practices made possible in Kolkata. Our ‘becoming’ is helped by the peer group meetings, in between and onwards from the training blocks.
While this space was made possible and all full of excitement and togetherness, our faculty had a keen eye on us and our skills. While discussing earlier about what the day should look like, they had felt that before we move on to learning other maps and contexts of application of Narrative ideas, we needed more skill development. So skill training became our goal for the day.
The training was roughly divided in two halves. The first half was an exercise. We got into groups. The task was simple: Make questions to interview a character. As we started with gusto, we kept making questions in small groups while Raviraj and Jehanzeb moved around hearing them. We thought of maps, made questions from the maps, altogether feeling on top of the exercise. I noticed from far, R-J asked more questions back to the groups that appeared to stir them up and re-strategize. It got me curious! Soon it was our group’s turn and the questions from them were :
- What is your intention?
- What do you think the question will put your interviewee (Tintin who had just returned from Tibet) in touch with?
And that was a game changer. It challenged us beautifully. And we got caught in specific words, language, intentions with renewed direction. R-J’s feedback that “yes you all are thinking of the Narrative possibilities” was very heartening and the new direction was the skill of creating a question as a bridge to transport the interview process to that area.
What helped me learn intensively was the fact that we did the exercise in groups. Our group of 6 supported the co-construction of the interview. We did need each other’s inputs and safely critiqued each word and language so they matched the Narrative maps. At the end, we heard possibilities of thirty brains and how they all converged to the skill of question-making with R-J as our guide. It was a power packed learning experience.
We knew this had borne fruit from the second exercise. It was a live interview where one of us volunteered as an interviewee, Jehanzeb interviewed, while the rest of the group of 30 watched. We observed the little things like body language, tone of voice, eye gaze, language used by the interviewer and so on. We were doing two things at once, (1) observing Jehanzeb and (2) being Jehanzeb to support the interview with more questions. We heard the story unfold, we joined in double listening.
While all of us looked calm on the outside, we were very busy framing useful questions that will help us and our interviewee friend find the preferred, the alternate. Because of the morning exercise we were more in tune with our intentions for the interviewee , then framing the question came easily. I noticed that the language was not as coherent as the exercises in handouts but were understood and well taken by the interviewee. We felt challenged and rewarded at the same time.
After a day like this, I felt learning Narrative practices is often not easy. In a simplistic way it calls for a philosophical shift on part of the therapist, the attitude to deconstruct. It calls for being skillful in double listening to another’s story with the intention of unpacking the person’s skills, values and actions that generically gets described as ‘agency’. All this is tied up together with a skillfully constructed question at the face of it.
The reflections shared by the participants highlighted how useful the day had been by putting us all back in touch with the core skill of question building in an ongoing conversation. Something we have been trying by ourselves till now, we got a chance to collectively learn under the keen eyes and ears of Raviraj and Jehanzeb. Couple of phrases leap up as my take away’s:
“ Practice! Practice! Practice!”
“This is not done alone but practiced in communion”
At Kol-katha, reward, gratitude and hope prevailed.
About the Author –
Priyanka is trained in clinical psychology with the chief area of interest being child, adolescent, young adults and family mental health. After completing her M.Phil in Clinical Psychology from the University of Kolkata, she has been a mental health practitioner over last 12 to 15 years. She met Narrative Ideas in 2016 at the Conference hosted by Ummeed Child Development Center in Mumbai and was drawn TO THEM since. She imbibes narrative practices in her clinical work. The organization she belongs to, Mental Health Foundation, has community training and capacity building as one of its core areas of service and she saw an instant connect there. She has been instrumental in bringing Training in Narrative Ideas to Kolkata through inviting the rigorous training programme that was successfully under way at Ummeed, Mumbai to her city Kolkata.
She has been a learner and a coordinator for the training at Kolkata over last 3 years. She hopes to support the peer group supervision culture in her city.
She teaches in the Masters in Psychology programme at West Bengal State Universtity and visualizes what training in mental health can look like.
Jugaad is a little book on mental health written by a bunch of 14 really cool, amazing, powerful young voices, curated by Yashna Vishwanathan and has drawings by Ananya Broker Parekh.
‘Jugaad’ is a word that is used across in several cities of India to describe life-hacks, know-hows people have to respond to everyday situations and problems.
Jugaad, hopes to bring in an alternate literature on what mental health looks like to young people and hopes for it to be a document that lives through the changing times, that has everyone adding in their know-hows, their jugaads through their understandings of mental health.
“We did our ‘first look’ of Jugaad with the people of our narrative community at our monthly narrative gathering last month at Ummeed Child Development Center, Mumbai. We did an activity where we asked participants to stitch their own patches, with the hope to be joined by all the people bringing in their own patches of jugaads – life – hacks, know-hows of responding to everyday stress/situations and to help us keep growing this document and the book. The gathering was an afternoon of warmth, resonance and excitement for a book that has shaped from young people’s lived experiences..”
Jugaad was featured in the Asian Age – Mumbai edition and we’re so excited for so many more of us to know of this collective document authored by our 14 young people.
“An illustrated book gives us a peek into the minds of young adults, their perception of mental health and the hacks they use to deal with their mental health needs.”
Ummeed Child Development Center Mumbai warmly invites you to Weaving Our Voices – the second Conference celebrating Narrative Ideas and Practices in India.
The gathering will be held in Mumbai, India 30th January to 4th of February 2020.
We hope it will be a coming together of a narrative community for sharing the ideas and practices of the narrative approach in the context of therapy, group work, supervision, and community work, especially in the diverse Indian contexts. There will also be opportunities for capacity building for professionals and community workers from all over the globe.
It will include pre and post-conference workshops, oral and poster presentations and panel discussions from a wide range of renowned practitioners in the field.