Description of parallel sessions

The voice of the therapist, presented by Stefan Blom

Therapists get exposed daily to what I call “privileged information”: valuable information about relationships and life that can – and does – change people’s lives. Over the last twenty years I have felt an increased sense of pressure to share this privileged information with the world: to define, and then use, my voice as a therapist. I would like to share my journey with you. We will look at questions like:

  • What information can make a difference to the world?
  • How can we share information in creative ways?
  • How do we give a voice to the information we learn?
  • How can we share with others what we have learned from our clients?
  • How can our voice as a therapist become a community project?

More about Stefan Blom

Stefan Blom, Clinical Psychologist and author of The Truth about Relationships. 2003. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau.


Co-parenting in high conflict conditions: How narrative practices help and how neuroscience helps understand why, presented by Janet Bytheway

Narrative practice created space for me to work with families engaged in high levels of conflict. This work is important: exposure to a chronically hostile parenting environment places children at extremely high risk for developing serious psychological difficulties. I will discuss how the narrative ideas of externalizing, positioning, therapeutic documents and landscape of action descriptions have been helpful in the work with families experiencing high levels of conflict around co-parenting.

Furthermore, I will briefly consider learnings from neuroscience about the RAGE and FEAR systems and how these can affect people’s ability to engage effectively in the therapy process. Having understandings from both areas of learning can facilitate the therapeutic process with families facing these challenges.

More about Janet Bytheway

Janet Bytheway has worked as a clinical psychologist in private practice for 25 years.Janet is an accredited FAMAC mediator. Her original training was in depth psychology (psychodynamic) but 15 years ago shediscovered Narrative Therapy and postmodern thinking. This meeting with narrative opened the doors to many new ways of working and facilitated working in challenging areas like children living with chronic psychiatric conditions like Bipolar Disorder and their families; adults diagnosed with personality disorders; co-parenting in high conflict situations and doing court ordered family assessments and interventions. Janetrecently developed an interest in affective neuroscience and since 2015 has attended The Affective Neuroscience Playgroup. She has a special interest in working with children and families.

A mother’s sacrifice… A case study of a survivor’s therapeutic journey through and beyond the whirlpool of sexual violence, presented by Manie Engelbrecht

The practise of Narrative Therapy within the constraints of a general state hospital is a unique challenge. Crises, trauma, pathology, illness and death inundate my practice daily.

As a narrative therapy practitioner, I have learned to utilise therapeutic encounters as opportunities to assist patients in their journey through and beyond their problem-saturated landscapes. I will share an example of a collaborative conversation that unfolded during a narrative therapeutic journey with a victim of sexual violence. I aim to shed light on the narrative conversation; to discuss the challenges encountered on the therapeutic journey; and to celebrate the outcomes achieved through Narrative Therapy Practices with an appreciative audience.

More about Manie Engelbrecht

Manie Engelbrecht – a qualified Psychologist and Social Worker – is fortunate enough to live on the beautiful Garden Route. Married to Alphia, a teacher, Manie has two energetic and creative children named Amarise and Armin. He is employed as clinical psychologist at George Hospital where he is responsible for psychological services in both the general hospital and in the Psychiatry Department. Manie was introduced to Narrative Therapy during his Social Work studies. He attended Elize Morkel’s Narrative Intensives in 2001 and 2007. In 2014, he attended Stephen Madigan’s Level 1 workshop. Since then, Manie has undertaken annual journeys to Somerset West, where he finds inspiration and rejuvenates his therapeutic skills. Manie is still practising to become an accomplished Narrative Therapist.

Kill the Paras”: Using Narrative Theatre to reauthor the story about “whoonga” addicts in the community of Nkobongo on the KZN North Coast, presented by Jeanne Haley, Phelo Muyanga Nonhlanhla Mpuku and Bongiwe Mthembu

 “What makes it hard for most of us to quit is that no-one is willing to listen to us. They always see us as criminals and treat us badly. That kills our self-esteem and we end up not knowing who we should speak to even if we want to be helped.” (The North Coast Courier 2017 May 3) Unnamed addict from Shaya Moya near Nkobongo.

This presentation focuses on using Narrative Theatre as an interactive community approach to deconstructing the single-story stereotyping of whoonga addicts (aka “paras”) – living in the Nkobongo community and its and surrounds – as drop-outs and criminals. Through Narrative Theatre, a group of high school learners begin to discover that listening to and sharing alternate stories that rehumanise and decriminalise young people addicted to whoonga, can transform anger, frustration and hopelessness. It can also open space for new attitudes and possibilities involving social cohesions and social responsibility. The results of the intervention will be presented.

Narrative Theatre aims to ‘promote social cohesions and increase social responsibility’ (Sliep, 2004:312). It encourages people to think beyond the individual to their roles and responsibility within the broader collective, as well as to recognize the potential contribution which groups can make to broader social issues.

 More about Jeanne Haley

Jeanne Haley is a founding member and Director of Mpower, a KwaZulu-Natal based organisation working with vulnerable children and youth, focusing on youth-headed households. Through individual and group workshops, Mpower collaborates with vulnerable children and youth to re-author their lives in a way that helps free them from the problem-saturated stories of their past and present and to open the way for new possibilities. Jeanne has a Master’s Degree in Psychology (UKZN). Her focus areas are narrative psychology, youth identities and community work. Jeanne has participated in Elize Morkel’s Narrative Therapy Intensive workshop, her workshop on a Narrative Approach to Community and Trauma and a workshop by Yvonne Sliep on Narrative Theatre.

More about Phelo Muyanga

Phelo Muyanga is Mpower’s Programme Co-ordinator. She has completed a BAdmin degree majoring in Human Resources. She draws her inspiration from seeing young people grow and develop the skills and confidence needed to take advantage of opportunities. Phelo is a narrative life coach and a skilled and experienced group facilitator. Phelo has attended a Narrative Therapy Intensive workshop and a Narrative Approach to Community and Trauma workshop with Elize Morkel. She received training in facilitation and group work from Jude Clark of the Narrative Foundation and participated in a workshop on Narrative Theatre by Yvonne Sliep. She has also completed the Firelight training course for emerging community leaders in the Cape, for which she was selected to receive a full bursary.

More about Nonhlanhla Mpuku

Nonhlanhla Mpuku works as a community worker and group facilitator for Mpower and Umhlali Methodist Church. Nonhlanhla has trained in First Aid, HIV/AIDS awareness, Counselling and Early Childhood Development. She is currently studying to be a teacher. Nonhlanhla has attended Elize Morkel’s Community and Trauma workshop and training in Narrative Theatre by Yvonne Sliep. Nonhlanhla finds working with young people challenging and exciting. She understands the pressures facing young people today and believes that they need to have a positive voice speaking into their lives.

More about Bongiwe Mthembu

Bongiwe Mthembu is one of Mpower’s community workers and an experienced group facilitator. She has completed training in Home-based care and First Aid at St John’s; Caring for the Terminally ill at Highway Hospice; Diabetes Management at Entabeni Hospital; Parent Effectiveness by Gordon Training International; Early Childhood Development by Hope Worldwide; and Personal Growth and Counselling Skills at Lifeline. Bongiwe is particularly passionate about helping young people who have lost hope and encouraging them not to give up. She has attended a Narrative Therapy Intensive workshop and the Narrative Approach to Community and Trauma workshop with Elize Morkel; training in facilitation and group work with Jude Clark of the Narrative Foundation; the Firelight training course for emerging community leaders in the Cape – for which she was selected to receive a full bursary- and a Narrative Theatre workshop with Yvonne Sliep.


A narrative approach to career possibilities for people with disabilities, presented by Doreen Hofmeyr

Narrative Therapy has sensitized me to the effect that cultural discourses and power relations have on the career choices of young people. Instead of relying solely on psychometric testing and an expert opinion, I choose to respect the young person’s experiences, knowledges, values, hopes and dreams. We engage in meaning-making conversations that take into consideration the influences of cultural beliefs, especially beliefs regarding disability.

In this presentation, I will share the story of my journey with a boy with visual impairment and his struggle to pursue his dreams and work towards his preferred identity. My client will be present as he is keen to share his own experiences. Audience participation through outsider witness responses will be part of the presentation process.

About Doreen Hofmeyr

Doreen Hofmeyr is a counselling psychologist in independent practice who specializes in Career and Subject Counselling for learners, students and adults.


Working with schools using Systemic Appreciative Practices, presented by Sverre Jor and Elin Bjøru

Appreciative Inquiry has often been associated with Narrative practices. Elspeth McAdam has developed an Appreciative practice for schools. It has been used with good outcomes in different cultures and countries. We will share a video that shows how these ideas are put into practice. The video was made when we assisted Dr McAdam in her work with a community in South Africa in 2015.

We will reflect on the following questions:

  • How can we look out for stories that make people feel good?
  • How can stories nurture human dignity?
  • Can positive stories invite people to feel valued and open up possibilities for change?
  • How criticism, blame and shame invite people to justify their actions and create explanations leading to repeat of unwanted behaviour.

More about Sverre Jor

Sverre is Pre-school Educator with extensive Family Therapy Education.

More about Elin Bjøru

Elin is a Psychologist, specialising in Family Therapy.

Sverre and Elin work together at the Family Office in Trondheim, Sweden. They both have considerable experience in working with children, youngsters, adults and families.


Sandworlds, story-making and shared therapeutic documents through the Therapeutic Sandstory Method, presented by Jan Knoetze

The Therapeutic Sandstory Method (TSM)* has been developed over many years of practice as an effective, playful and serious way of accessing children’s life stories within a narrative therapy context. In this presentation, I will describe TSM and its three main theoretical tenets for engaging with children: Story-making in therapy; Sandworld expression; and Therapeutic letter-writing. I will use a case study to illustrate TSM and discuss how the “retelletter” provides a useful means of externalising with children. I will invite further speculation about the mechanisms of change and healing made possible by TSM.

* Knoetze, J.J. (2013). Sandworlds, storymaking, and letter writing: the Therapeutic Sandstory Method. South African Journal of Psychology, 43(4), 459–469. DOI: 10.1177/0081246313506663

More about Jan Knoetze

Jan is an educational psychologist. For the past nineteen years, he has been a senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Rhodes University, Grahamstown where he is involved in the Clinical and Counselling Psychology Master’s programmes teaching and supervising students in the modality of child therapies. Jan has introduced narrative ways of understanding in these courses, especially with the counselling psychology group. He has always been drawn to stories and sand expressions and have, through my own practice, developed a unique way of engaging with children through the medium of sand, story-making and retellings, a co-reconstructing of their worlds in a playful way.


The power of life stories to foster healing and care of vulnerable children in a community context, presented by Kay Lorentz

 Resilient Kids bears witness to how giving children an opportunity to begin to tell, own and reframe their story has not only nurtured resilience but has also helped them to begin to be resilience builders for the children around them. Yet it was only after being the subject of two research studies by an American university that we became aware of the term Narrative Therapy.

In this presentation, I will relate some of my own journey, the organic development of Resilient Kids and the findings of the research. I will then discuss how children are guided to use the resilience building blocks to tell their stories, heal their stories and, in turn, help the children around them to manage the scripts in their forming stories.

More about Kay Lorentz

Kay Lorentz, the Director of Resilient Kids SA, combines her counselling, teaching and adult facilitation training with her extensive experience working in cross-cultural community settings to create spaces that foster healing, learning, and care.


Psychologists doing sorry: Narrative Therapy as response to trauma and inequality in South Africa, presented by Helen Malgas

In this paper, I will use the personal narratives of myself as an English-speaking coloured woman and Elize Morkel an Afrikaans-speaking white woman respectively to reflect on our awareness of social injustices in South Africa. I will illustrate how Narrative Therapy assists us to view the impact of historical injustices, continued inequality and overwhelming trauma in the South African context. Through our professional connection and personal friendship over the past ten years we have been able to engage in acts of restitution on a personal, professional and community level. I will share examples of how Narrative Therapy has inspired us to generate hope and possibilities beyond our middle-class practices in ways that we had previously thought impossible.

About Helen Malgas

Helen Malgas has been practicing as a Counselling Psychologist for the past 11 years.  Currently she works as a Counselling Psychologist in private practice in Plumstead Cape Town.  Currently she is employed by the South African College of Applied Psychology as a part-time lecturer.  Helen also works as an independent contractor to the City of Cape Town Health Department where she facilitates groups for nurses and social workers employed at various primary healthcare facilities throughout Cape Town.


Exploring masculine gender identity through the therapeutic journey with two boys in an all boys’ primary school, presented by Anne McDonald

This is a story of my therapeutic journey through ‘unmapped territory’ (Epston, 2016)) with two boys who, to differing degrees, have lived on the fringe of the dominant culture in an all boys’ primary school. It is an exploration of masculine gender identity and how those who do not fit in have found ways of being within their environment. I will share how I have attempted to challenge the culture – both with other boys and with staff – and some of the affirmative practices that I have encouraged within the school. Finally, the two boys offer suggestions on what could have been done differently to provide a culture that is more accepting.

About Anne McDonald

Anne McDonald comes from a history of teaching and is now an Educational Psychologist who, for the past thirteen years, has worked as a school counsellor in a boys’ only school. She has been involved in narrative practices since the outset of her counselling career and finds that this is the most successful way of working with children. She also has a small private practice and does some work in the community for the Shine programme.


Taking care of relationships as a solid foundation for families encountering substance abuse, presented by Katy Menell

Substance abuse can open families up to problems of mistrust, dishonesty and non-communication. Much damage can be done to relationships when complex problems accompany substance abuse and the problems start to take over. This is a story of a family recovering their relationships and undermining these problems.

More about Katy Menell

Katy Menell is a narrative-inspired registered counsellor working from Prospect Hill Recovery Practice in Wynberg Cape Town. She has many years of experience working to minimise the effects of addictive behaviours on families and relationships.


Take a jump to the left: Exploring alternative perspectives to externalisation in Narrative Therapy, presented by Dirk Odendaal

“Externalisation” is a term that has become synonymous with Narrative Therapy and “Sneaky Poo” is the classic example of externalisation.  The originally unique “intervention” – personifying a problem – has now become a “truth”: the generalised preferred way, or technique, of responding to problems. This has opened Narrative Therapy to criticism that it can be a crude and insensitive response to the complexity of the problems which people face; for example, in cases of abuse.

In this presentation, I will reflect on the well-known literary term “perspective” in the context of Narrative Therapy and its relationship to “externalisation” and “unique outcomes” as a way of refining and developing the theoretical position from which therapists can draw in their work as narrative therapists.

About Dirk Odendaal

Dirk was born in Indwe and lived as teenager in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape. He studied for the ministry at Stellenbosch University and, since then, has worked in the DRCA community in Qumrha (1983-1988) and in the URCSA community in Mdantsane.  His post-graduate training was in Theology (MTh at Stellenbosch), literature (D.Litt. at UPE in 1991) and psychology (MA Counselling Psychology at RU in 2005). Dirk is now registered and practising as a psychologist and lecturer. In 2010, he started lecturing part-time in the Department of Psychology at Fort Hare University in East London and has been an Associate-Professor since 2012.


Integrating Narrative Therapy with Body Psychotherapy, presented by Jeanne Oets

Zimmerman and Beaudoin (2015) invite Narrative Practitioners to extend their practice with     embodied experiences as “Emotional defence becomes hard wired into your physical structure as body armour in the form of muscular tension, excess weight, numbness or disease” (Judith, 2015: 39). The Chakra system’s theoretical model (Myss, 1996); Bioenergetic Analysis (Lowen, 1977; Keleman, 1987); Chakra Yoga postures (Judith, 2015); and Breath Work (Andron, M. & Andron, B., 2012) all work towards connecting mind, body and spirit as well as releasing physical symptoms and emotional discomfort.

A case study illustrates how integrating Body Psychotherapy with Narrative Therapy supported   both the re-membering of a preferred identity and the alleviation of physical symptoms for the client.

More about Jeanne Oets

Jeanne is a Narrative Therapist in private practice. She integrates Narrative Therapy with Body Psychotherapy. Her Master’s thesis (2003) compared the developmental stages of Erik Erikson with the developmental stages of the chakra system. Jeanne completed a professional seminar in Massachusetts (USA) on the “Principles of Mind-Body Integration” in 2015. She is currently enrolled in The Charge Activation Training, a seven-month mind-body integration course offered by Anodea Judith from California, USA.

Jeanne applies the integration of Narrative Therapy and Body Psychotherapy daily: in her personal and family life; in private practice (with individuals, couples and families); and in her community work with large groups in schools.


Reflections on working with diversity in organisations, presented by Linda Price

This presentation will reflect on working with diversity in South African organisations. I explore the meanings that we attach to diversity through the exchange of personal and work stories and show how the narrative approach contributes towards developing behaviours and actions that value difference.  The discussion will also refer to the Right to Equality as contained in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, and the Prohibition of Unfair Discrimination contained in the Employment Equity Act. The presentation will illustrate how the collective exploration of multiple beliefs, backgrounds, talents and ways of living can create an inclusive work culture that strengthens individuals, the workplace and wider society.

More about Linda Price

Linda Price is a registered organisational psychologist and runs an independent practice working with conflict, career and diversity issues. She designs and facilitates processes that explore diversity and aim to strengthen workplace relationships. Linda is also a conflict mediator and part-time CCMA commissioner.  Supervision is central to her work: since 2010 Linda has run The Practice Diaries to nurture practice development processes.   Linda has taught at UKZN and UCT in narrative psychology; career development; meaning of working life; organisational development; conflict management and professional development.  She currently teaches on the Organisational Psychology Masters’ programme at UCT.


Running life’s race with bi-polar illness as companion: A case example, presented by Bettie Rall

I often find psychiatric diagnoses limiting of clients’ lives and hopes for the future. I will share the story of a young girl who experienced that professional knowledges of a psychiatric disorder convinced her that she is abnormal and a failure in life while robbing her of hope for the future.

I will discuss and illustrate how we worked creatively with relational externalizations to investigate the psychiatric diagnosis that was shaping her identity. My presentation will include examples of the externalising conversations, therapeutic letters, poems and metaphors that were used during our collaboration.  The focus on her insider-knowledges enabled her to re-author a preferred identity. This opened up hope and possibilities for her life. It also changed the way in which others view her.

About Bettie Rall

Bettie Rall is an experienced counselling psychologist in independent practice at Cape Gate Therapy Centre, Cape Town. She did her Master’s training at the UOFS where Elmarie Kotzé was one of the lecturers. Elmarie introduced Betty to Narrative therapy in 1993.  Over the past fourteen years Betty has also done extensive narrative training with Elize Morkel. Betty presented her case work at a previous Narrative conference in Cape Town and was acknowledged for her creative way of working with client’s narratives and metaphors.


Using the Journey Metaphor in Narrative conversations, presented by Alesta Smit

Michael White uses maps as a metaphor to plot the journey of Narrative Practices. Many narrative practitioners have adopted this Journey Metaphor in their conversations with clients, very like the Tree of Life has become a well-known metaphor for working with traumatised children. I have found the Journey Metaphor a creative way to co-construct with clients a visual document using symbols to map the meaning-making therapeutic conversation as it fits into the person’s life journey. The unique outcomes become visible as points of entry towards new direction on the road.

The Journey Metaphor is a very accessible map to use in the training of lay counsellors and community workers.

About Alesta Smit

Alesta has an Honour’s degree in Psychology (UOFS) and has completed a two-year program in Pastoral Narrative Therapy through the Research Institute of Religion at UNISA. An accredited member (Category 4 – Advanced Level) of the South African Association for Pastoral work (SAAP), Alesta is involved at the Helderberg Dutch Reformed church as a Trainer and Supervisor for counsellors. Alesta describes herself as “a creative individual”.