We are a species of story-makers and storytellers. Stories are central to our development of self concept and identity and how we distinguish ourselves from others - a process central to our wellbeing. Counselling through storytelling is both an ancient activity and an emerging conceptual model. As an ancient activity it finds its origins in some very old cultural traditions. Australian Aboriginal people have long been telling stories in which they have created a sense of landscape, community and place. These stories hold a significance that stretches from the dawn of time, from the stories of the Dreamtime. The invitation to the 6th World Congress for Psychotherapy (WCP) on the theme of World Dreaming stated: “The intention of psychotherapy has always been to find forms of communication, expressions and understanding that allow non-violent resolution of conflicts and the emergence of the individual human spirit". Not so! As central as stories may be to the human condition and despite their early acceptance, psychological theory and practice have historically focussed on promoting and maintaining Western privilege through Western knowledge and Western ways of knowing which have denied the validity of Indigenous knowledge and culture. Psychotherapeutic research adopted the methodology of natural science: accurate measurement; statistical analysis; experimentation; the quest for predictive power; and the role of the detached, objective researcher. The growth of science and technology correlated directly with the loss in legitimacy of stories as a means of communicating truths about the world. This process had particularly severe repercussions for traditional peoples and their way of life, so rooted in literal story. In an Australian context, psychology has been complicit in the colonising process. It has acted as an agent for assimilation and oppression. This paper traces some of the effects of the "fall and rise" of narrative methods for understanding and enhancing human behaviour.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


peer reviewed, storytelling; culture; colonisation; modernism; postmodernism



Link to Publisher Version (DOI)