Healing Change

McGrath & Associates

What if the help isn’t helping?

By Keri Murray | October 02, 2019

There’s nothing worse when you’re really struggling and doing all that you can to deal with a problem, when others suggestions about what we ought to do doesn’t seem to help… or even seems to make things worse. We can feel more like “the problem is me.” It can be soul destroying and leave us feeling more helpless and alone with the problem. And the problem can seem even bigger. Many people I have worked with can feel so desperate that there seems to be no way out. It is then insult to injury when we are made to feel like we are the problem, or that our efforts are making it worse. In this world of pop psychology and “self-help” there is plenty of ‘evidence’ presented to us that doesn’t work and we can end up judging ourselves (or feel judged by others) and torture ourselves for ‘not doing it right’.

Many people speak about their problems in a sort of short-hand that has trickled down from ‘experts’ who have defined the ‘evidence’ for their struggles. While some might find this short-hand helpful to ignore the life-story of the problem and all that one has been up against, it often does little justice to any one person’s particular struggle with ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’, ‘abuse’, ‘anger’ or ‘personality disorders’ for example. It can render people to feel powerless in the face of problems, or that the problems are ‘in charge’.

So what is good help? Or how do we know when it is good help? These are good questions. The clarification of what isn’t helping can discern why and what might help, better. We are all discerning people…. Always responding. If you feel bad about something you’ve done, or how things are going, then we investigate the source of that in terms of what you value for your own life and for those you love and care about. Gut feelings (or how our bodies might be reacting) about our boundaries and preferences can give us evidence as to when we are headed in the preferred direction. This is our own preferred direction, which may or may not be in the direction others hope for us. When we feel more in charge of decisions, in line with what we most value, this is often a good sign. So knowing what good help is, is help that puts you in the position of expert. The therapist is trusting that you are the expert in your life and will know when something is working better or not.


Narrative Therapy Definitions

By Keri Murray | October 14, 2019

I have found ‘The New Dictionary of Narrative Therapy’ (Tom Carlson, Tiffany Saxton and Sanni Paljakka, 2018) helpful in understanding Narrative Therapy

1.       Outsideness - we invite people to become observers and narrators of their own lives, to be moral agents evaluating their own experience (vs. being caught inside a problem or someone else’s version of their story). Seeing you as the expert on your own life, is critical to discovering and sustaining steps forward in your preferred direction.

2.       Up Against - what have you been up against in life (not what are you diagnosed - the traditional therapist shorthand)? What are the specific contexts and factors that cannot be ignored?

3.       Master Narratives - what are the unquestioned ideas, assumptions, and stories that the dominant culture speaks that may silence what you and others have been up against, and your efforts in the face of these.

4.       Unbelonging Effects - often give clues to the effects of the master narrative. We often see our work is in re-belonging people.

5.       Counter Story- we prefer to seek the stories less spoken, the ones that have always been there but may not have been given the attention they ought to have, to be described in rich detail. These often provide clues in how you prefer to conduct your life, based on your particular values and principles for living.

6.       Moral Character - we wish to understand in detail what the moral character is that drives you along in your life; We want to know the person we find ourselves in the presence of, in light of what you are up against? And who you prefer yourself to be…

7.       Belonging Goals - our hope is to come together in service of connecting lives (vs. focusing on people as individuals), to do right and hold dignity in safer spaces.


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