Literature Review: ‘Storying professional identity’

This interesting article by John Winslade (2002) is about the shift in the development of a counsellor education program regarding a culturally sensitive community of people. The context of this interview is about a Maori community’s need for counsellors that could approach their culture with sensitivity and understanding. They were asking for a change to the traditional counselling frameworks which were not suited to listening to their individual needs with an understanding of cultural context. Herein lies the solution which was a shift to a new approach developing in Australia by Michael White:  narrative practice.

Narrative ideas offered an alternative to the modernist rationalist approaches that had up until then dominated counsellor education –Winslade, 2002

The counsellor education program shift from traditional methods to a new, almost philosophical method of counselling revealed problems that the students were having in understanding the new theories. Those who were instigating the new approach were aware of this, they were able to get the students involved in deconstructing the new approach. The methods they were using were reminiscent of Kate Bowles’ activity in our seminar on narrative practice. To have one remember an incident that recently happened and deconstruct it, to discover the values and reasons behind this decision or act.

To make these considerations more personal, students are also asked to deconstruct an incident from their own life in terms of the discourses that were operating to shape their experience of this incident. We regularly receive feedback from students that this deconstruction of their own experience transforms their understandings. – Winslade, 2002

Winslade explores how students were encouraged to create, or story an identity as a ‘counsellor’ through asking them to place their values, knowledge and skills into a professional story. He makes it clear then that by those who have created this counsellor education program and those involved in the program are ‘co-authoring’ their professional identities. This creation and development of their professional ‘story’ and their personal development was made possible through the implementation of narrative practice. Winslade spells out the process the program offered to enable the storying of the professional identity as,

– Sharing videos of their work

– Being interviewed about one’s work

– Creating a folio

Reflecting on the work performed and produced by the students in the program on each other was key in developing each others’ professional identity. Winslade acknowledges that this education to create a professional identity for counsellors is important in maintaining the reflection that counsellors are ‘simply human’. Listening, reflecting, developing all seem to be a part of this education. Winslade and his team have made an impact in how their narrative practice approach has had on their students and then how that’s been passed on to their counsellors professional clients.

The joys of teaching lie not in taking credit for the work that students are doing, so much as in bearing witness to developments and achievements in ways that give them greater recognition and acknowledgement. In this way they continue to develop in the lives of our students, in the lives of the people who consult them, as well as in our own understandings. – Winslade, 2002

This review of this article makes me think more and more of something I read in the slides Kate Bowles introduced to us,

Narrative work helps us to identify steps that have been taken in life that are distinctive in some way, and then look back to find a pattern that enables these “unique outcomes” to be taken more seriously. – Kate Bowles, 2017

This is so succinct in summing up Winslade’s mission in regards to educating his group of counsellors. He instigated the approach of narrative work which allowed those in the program to develop professionally through identifying their own steps they’ve taken in life, and using the knowledge and insight from deconstructing these steps, to be better counsellors and people.



Bowles, K. (2017). Week 2: taking care with the lives of others.

Winslade, J. (2017). ‘Storying professional identity’ – The Dulwich Centre. [online] The Dulwich Centre. Available at: [Accessed 22 Aug. 2017].


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