Crafting a different narrative

better care:A performance at a conference on the role of narrative therapy in dealing with psyhological disorders at the NCPA. —Photo: Aishwarya Parikh  

Is narration therapeutic? Can children with mental health issues take advantage of narrative therapy to cope with their conditions better?

On Saturday, these very questions were being answered at India’s first narrative therapy conference — ‘A Room Full of Stories’. Ummeed, a Mumbai-based NGO for child development hosted the event at NCPA in collaboration with Narrative Practices Adelaide, Australia and Re-Authoring Teaching, an American organisation.

What it became, is a platform for sharing ideas and practices of the narrative approach in the context of therapy, group work, supervision and community work. A Room Full of Stories crowded together around 200 people from India and overseas. The five-day conference brimmed with personal experiences of people from varied expertise like psychiatry, paediatric excellence, special education, speech and occupational therapy, mental health and counselling, social work, and physiotherapy.The organisers say: “Narrative therapy is a respectful, non-judgmental, culturally relevant approach to counselling which centres people as the expert 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.”

Daisy Daruwalla Bhatena, a senior therapist and trainer at Ummeed narrated the story of an eight-year old autistic boy Aryan who cried each time he lost a game which led to his peers calling him ‘cranky’. “He started responding aggressively to it and the intensity rose to a level where behavioural techniques used by his teachers and parents proved helpless in sending him to school. When I started taking his sessions, he slowly started talking to me, but he couldn’t open up much so I asked him to draw. His drawings consisted of games and people which is when I learned that he cried not because he lost, but because that made him move out of the game while he still wanted to be a part of it and enjoy with his friends. Being with his peers was what mattered to him. Punishment, labeling and calling children names for their behavior is the real problem.”

Occupational therapist Raviraj Shetty says, “The therapy consists of asking questions and assisting people to recognise the solution from within. Self-realisation makes the solution effective and they tend to follow it.”

Parul Kumtha, a narrative therapy practitioner and the president of Forum for Autism, spoke about her son’s experience before and after narrative therapy. “When he hit adolescence, due to his different needs, we kept treating him as a child. That distanced him from us. Just because he had a disability, I assumed that I can make decisions for him. After speaking to trainers at Ummeed, I realised I was wrong. People with special needs also have the right to take life decisions. I learned that his intellectual disability doesn’t make him any less of a person, and he has the right to chose for himself and question just like all adolescents do.”

The writer is an intern at The Hindu

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 1:40:36 PM |

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