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Previous Workshops

2019 Workshop
Narrative Therapy and Cultural Sensitivity: Responding to People Who Have Suffered Hardships and Trauma

Date: Friday, November 1, 2019

Location: The NonProfit Center, Community Conference Center, 89 South St., Boston, MA
Presenter: Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo

For our 10th Annual Fall Workshop, our guest presenter was Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo, who is known internationally for her narrative community work. In 1996, Ncazelo co-developed the “Tree of Life” Project to assist African children orphaned by HIV and AIDS. The enthusiastic world-wide response to this narrative-informed project helped Ncazelo step even more fully into an exploration of culturally sensitive counseling services for people who have experienced severe hardships and trauma.

Ncazelo’s explorations led her to the development of what she calls the Imbeleko Approach to Therapeutic Practice, which integrates narrative practice and cultural sensitivity. In her work, Ncazelo is committed to foregrounding cultural knowledges and local wisdoms about healing and recovery. In this workshop, she introduced Imbeleko through a project called COURRAGE, which developed out of partnership she had with six women living in informal settlements in northern Johannesburg, South Africa. These women faced significant hardships, and Ncazelo shared how collective narrative work produced stories that feature these women’s strengths, skills, and courage in the face of immense sorrow and grief.

2018 Workshop
Relational Accountability: Storying Power, Privilege, and Discomfort

Date:  Saturday, November 10, 2018

Location:  St. Andrew's Church, 135 Lafayette St., Marblehead, MA

Presenters:  Guadalupe Morelos, MSW, and Stephen Gaddis, PhD

This workshop explored how we make sense of power from a narrative perspective while acknowledging structural and institutional power and privilege as well. The presenters distinguished (1) structural power/force, which influences through threats of harm and punishment, and (2) narrative power/knowledge, which shapes through normative judgments. This normative form of power contributes to significant injustices and various forms of violence that often go unnoticed.

The presenters reflected on the ways power came into play in the context of their own relationship, and the steps they have taken to be accountable to one another. They also reflected on how these narrative understandings of power have influenced their therapy practices. Following the presenters’ reflections, workshop participants were invited into exercises designed to promote discussion and reflections on narrative perspectives about power. Participants were encouraged to consider and clarify how they prefer to understand and account for power in their own personal and professional lives.

2017 Workshop
Re-Membering Michael White: Saying Hullo Again

Date:  Friday, October 13, 2017
Location:  Beverly Cove Community Center, 19 East Corning St., Beverly, MA 

Presenters:  Jill Freedman, MSW, Gene Combs, MD, and Stephen Gaddis, PhD

For our our 8th Annual NTI Fall Workshop, Jill Freedman and Gene Combs, co-directors of Evanston Family Therapy Center and co-authors of Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities, co-presented with NTI Director Stephen Gaddis. Jill and Gene were close friends and colleagues with narrative therapy pioneer Michael White for many years, and Michael frequently visited them at their center in Chicago for trainings. This means Jill and Gene have precious videos of Michael doing work, and they shared a very lovely one at the workshop. We used the tape to develop a rich day of learning and inspiration for participants.

2016 Workshop

Narrative Therapy with More Than One Person

Date: Friday, November 4, 2016
Location: St. Andrew's Church, 135 Lafayette St., Marblehead, MA 

Presenter: Stephen Gaddis, Ph.D.

This workshop focused on work when more than one person is present in a conversation about a problem. No family escapes having to relate to one another around problems. However, no two families relate to problems in the same way. Given these individual differences, it is not surprising that certain families’ members generally take up abusive ways of relating around problems. It is predictable to think at least one family member will have internalized some discourse about domination as the right ways to respond to problems.


Dr. Stephen Gaddis showed an example of work with a family where abusive ways of relating were regularly featured in family members’ interactions with one another. He showed how he worked to help deconstruct the ideas that support abusive ways of relating and re-author an alternative story for relating around problems.

2015 Workshop

Narrative Approaches and Families with Children in Serious Crisis

Dates: Thursday and Friday, November 12 & 13, 2015

Location: The Wellesley College Club, 727 Washington St., Wellesley, Mass.

Presenters: Stephen Gaddis, Ph.D., Betsy Buckley, LICSW; and Phil Decter, Ph.D.


Many families with children are in crisis due to serious problems like violence, neglect, substance abuse, and/or “mental illness,” for example. These problems sometimes lead families to seek out therapy consultations on their own. In other cases, families are required to meet with professionals or risk social interventions that could separate family members from one another. Whether assistance is offered in private or public contexts, critical social justice questions about what it means to help come into play.

In this two-day workshop, the basic assumptions and ideas that distinguish the Narrative Worldview from the culturally dominant Normative Worldview were explained. Day One focused on the theoretical foundations of narrative therapy and clinical examples in therapeutic contexts. Day Two focused on child protection and welfare contexts. Betsy Buckley and Phil Decter brought their vast knowledge and experience in narrative therapy, public sector, and child welfare work to help us with our learning. Each day, presenters showed examples of how they have drawn from narrative understandings when working with families in crisis. All clinical examples explained how working from a narrative perspective helped people change their relationships with problems while maintaining a strong commitment to concerns about physical and emotional safety. At the end of each day, there were reflections on community actions that address the social injustices that contribute to too many problems in families’ lives and relationships.

2014 Workshop

Making Meaning of Suicide

Date: Friday, November 21, 2014

Location: 135 Lafayette St., Marblehead, Mass.

Facilitator: Stephen Gaddis, Ph.D.


Acts of suicide have tremendous effects that ripple into the lives of whoever is in relationship with the person who ended their life. Loved ones and helping professionals alike experience effects that can produce significant suffering. The stories available for people to make sense of suicide can help maintain a life-support system for problems. In this workshop, we worked to expose taken-for-granted cultural and professional narratives for understanding suicide so that subjugated stories may offer viable alternatives.  


Dr. Stephen Gaddis facilitated a narrative therapy workshop addressing discourses of suicide and introduced questions for participants to engage in through small-group discussions and exercises.


Some of the questions that were addressed include:


When a suicide occurs…

  • what are the culturally dominant stories available to position people for meaning-making?

  • where is the person who committed suicide in the storying of the action?

  • who decides where the problems should be located?

  • what influence do stories of mental illness play?

  • how are helping professionals positioned?

  • what would happen if we linked suicide to the effects of discourse and social injustice?

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