Attended Narrative Therapy Writing Conference in Adelaide

A week ago I attended the 12th Annual Narrative Therapy Conference Post Conference workshop; the Cross Cultural Inventions: Metaphoric Narrative Practice in Adelaide. I am so grateful I was able to attend. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. This enlightening and inspiring workshop was hosted by Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo and David Denborough who together created The Tree of Life Narrative Therapy methodology for helping children and adults navigate through their horrendous trauma they have suffered.

Ncazelo is an educational psychologist and a narrative therapist with extensive experience working with children and communities affected by HIV in East and Southern Africa. Currently, she works with the Nelson Mandela’s Children Fund, she shared how she and David developed their unique program. (She also required us to sing and dance during the workshop which was hilarious and enlivening!) David has written many books about narrative therapy practice and works as a community practitioner, teacher and writer for Dulwich Centre, he talked about how he used narrative therapy in his work in prisons, fascinating.

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Suzanne Strong, David Denborough and Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo at the 12th Annual Narrative Therapy Conference, Adelaide, November, 2014


At the workshop I was mesmerised whilst listening to the other attendees. Usually, it is only the presenters out the front that attendees are impressed with but I was awestruck by Ncazelo and David as well as those around me. People like a beautiful Brazilian lady, Ana Luiza who works with children and adults in the favelas near Rio De Janiero, Halimah who works with people dealing with drug abuse, pre-teen pregnancy, suicide, and other forms of extreme social issues in Mount Isa. As well as an African woman who started the Home Of Hope in Johannesburg when she realised children were being forced into prostitution, at first she accepted a few until there were so many, expansion was needed. Listening to this lady, I was entranced by the horror of what she was saying but also, by her simple compassion, she took gave them a safe place. Wow.

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Ana Luiza, Suzanne, Lucia Helena; lovely Brazilian ladies, who work in the slums in Rio De Janeiro.


Listening to the narrative therapy methods described by Ncazelo and David captured my imagination and as I sat there, I felt like my whole being was being expanded in the sense that I could see how I could take these concepts, and expand them into many different directions like branches.

In the conference workshop sat amazing, outstanding individuals from Mexico, China, Canada, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Africa, the USA who are using their imaginations to set on fire ideas that help people in the most horrendous of situations. For the first time in many years, I could see how I could tangibly adapt my current writing therapy techniques to assist more people around the world, including youth and children!

Over the past six years I have been developing my own writing therapy methods and conducting workshops helping people through stress and trauma and this has produced amazing outcomes for people. I have been very blessed to be a part of this. Then, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the Dulwich Community Centre in Adelaide. This centre conducts training in methods of narrative therapy. Some of these methods are slightly different to what I do, but I am so excited to add this to my repertoire!

With my methods I had always wanted to adapt them and make them accessible to help indigenous people in Australia, at risk youth, refugees, communities in Africa, or any parts of the world, children and adults overseas who had suffered trauma. I knew I would find a way and work with others to make this possible, though I didn’t know how it would happen.
Now, I can finally see the way. It’s a way for me to access my imagination and expand on methods developed and tested and worked on by Ncazelo and David Denborough. I can be creative, using this framework to adapt and expand my own techniques outwards, therefore allowing me to help more people with my writing therapy techniques. I was exhilarated.
David said during the conference workshop the Tree of Life method is a framework and is meant to be used to invent and create our own adaptations.

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Beautiful conference setting, serene and captivating.
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Amazing Halimah and me, enjoying lunch.

I was so happy to get to know another participant, Halimah, who is from Zimbabwe but lives and works and is Australian now, she said “when I came here, I thought wow, I’ve found my tribe!” and as we were talking I was explaining to her how I was feeling and she said; “You’ve also found your tribe.” And I thought yes. That is very true.

Freedom doesn’t come with achieving our dreams, or receiving acclamation for our talents, (though this can be amazing), freedom comes in giving your life for others, freedom comes in “losing your life” according to what the world thinks. These people were dedicated to helping others in the most dire and dank areas of need in the world and yet these people were some of the most joyous people I have met. That is why I know if you give your life for others, though you may not have impressive cars, houses, or clothes you will possess something infinitely more valuable, inner peace and fulfilment. Inner freedom and a feeling that your life is contributing to the life of others, the privilege of helping others achieve freedom and empowerment in their lives. This is something that cannot be attained or bought.

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