Mission and Ethics
Our mission is to make all helping practices more socially just, collaborative, and accountable. We currently promote the narrative worldview as a legitimate, rigorous, highly effective and, most importantly, socially-just orientation for people seeking help. We work to grow and support communities committed to exploring, learning, and working in ways that are ethically congruent with a poststructural narrative worldview.
Acknowledging that all stories are relationally negotiated, considerations of power as constitutive is critical in all knowledge claims and developments. We take the position that in the history of the helping professions, too little concern has been paid to considerations of power from this constitutionalist perspective. Without these considerations, we are deeply concerned about the way that good intentions can inadvertently become become acts of social control instead of social justice. Therefore, we understand narrative therapy as the promotion of social justice through an appreciation of the politics of meaning-making.
In 1999, Steve moved to Beverly, Mass., to finish his Ph.D. in Family Therapy from Syracuse University. He had been studying and practicing narrative therapy since 1992 when he was introduced to it in his Master’s training at Colorado State University. In Boston, he connected with like-minded narrative enthusiasts including Phil Decter, Shi-Jiuan Wu, and Betsy Buckley at The Home for Little Wanderers where he did his doctoral internship as an intensive home-based therapist. At the time, the Family Institute of Cambridge had been an early stopping point for Michael White, David Epston, and additional “first-wave” pioneers of Narrative Therapy. Kaethe Weingarten and SallyAnn Roth were instrumental in bringing these folks from Australia and New Zealand to New England so we could learn from our Southern Hemisphere teachers.
Steve had always dreamed of starting his own training center and was very fortunate to be welcomed on the North Shore by Evan Longin and Marjorie Roberts, who were practitioners and teachers with long histories of engaging with postmodern ideas. Together, the three of them decided to start a small training program for people interested in postmodern approaches to therapy, which they named The Salem Center for Therapy, Training, and Research. Marjorie had studied Collaborative Language Systems and Reflecting Teamwork extensively and had a close relationship with Tom Andersen from Norway, Peggy Penn, and Lynn Hoffman. Many of the trainings that take place at The Salem Center involve a mix of narrative and dialogic approaches. Evan’s irreverence for any formal theory and commitment to respectful helping added an ongoing accountability for too much dogmatism.
As The Salem Center grew, Steve became more interested in offering trainings that were focused more precisely on narrative therapy in the tradition he learned from Michael White. When Michael died unexpectedly and tragically in 2007, Steve decided it was time to start a new project focused solely on narrative therapy training. With the help of his friends and colleagues, Elizabeth Cochran, Kate Tiedemann, Laurel Earls, Sally Reagan, and Kevin Linehan, the Narrative Therapy Initiative was launched in 2009 with the mission of having narrative therapy become a legitimate alternative to the culturally dominant traditions of pathologically understanding people and locating problems in individuals or families.
Since 2009, the Narrative Therapy Initiative (NTI) has grown on the backs of volunteers who share this vision and through the interest of students who have taken classes and/or attended workshops and conferences. With few resources and big dreams, we are proud to have stayed alive for nine years and intend to keep standing for these subjugated ways of thinking, acting, and working.