Margaret M. Leahy, Mary O Dwyer, Fiona Ryan, Witnessing Stories: Definitional Ceremonies in Narrative Therapy with Adults who Stutter, Journal of Fluency Disorders, 2012
Journal of Fluency Disorders;
Narrative therapy (White & Epston, 1990) was developed as an approach to counselling, as a response to the power relations that influence people's lives. Its use with people who stutter has been documented. A basic tenet of narrative therapy is that the dominant problem-saturated narrative is challenged by externalizing the problem, in due course facilitating development of an alternative narrative. Within this process, the definitional ceremony involving outsider witnesses is a key procedure used to influence change.
This paper describes definitional ceremonies, and their application within a narrative approach to therapy for stuttering. The analysis of a specific definitional ceremony is presented, leading to an exploration of identity as a public and social achievement.
A definitional ceremony involving a woman who stutters and family members was recorded and analysed using two methods: interpretative phenomenological analysis and Heideggerian hermeneutic phenomenological analysis. Details of the clinical application of definitional ceremonies with this client are described.
Results and Conclusions:
Results from both methods of analysis were found to be similar. Notable results include the fact that the stuttering per se was not presented as the problem; rather, the impact of stuttering, especially the experience of bullying, was a dominant theme. This paper shows how definitional ceremonies can open opportunities for clients to present themselves in a preferred way, forming the basis for a new story and re-vised identity. Emerging themes can be identified for reflection and discussion with the client for therapeutic benefit.
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