Michael White, the guiding genius of narrative family theapy, began his professional life as a mechanical draftsman. But he soon realized that he preferred people to machines and went into social work where he gravitated to family therapy. Following an initial attraction to the cybernetic thinking of Gregory Bateson, White became more interested in the ways people construct meaning in their lives than just with the ways they behaved.
In developing the notion that people's lives are organized by their life narratives, White came to believe that stories don't mirror life, they shape it. That's why people have the interesting habit of becoming the stories they tell about their experience.
Narrative therapists break the grip of unhelpful stories by externalizing problmes. By challenging fixed and pessimistic versions of events, therapists make room for fliexibility and which new and more optimistic stories can be envisioned. Finally, clients are encouraged to create audiences of support to witness and promote their progress in restoring their lives along preferred lines.
White's innovative thinking helped shape the basic tenets of narrative therapy, which considers the broader historical, cultural and political framework of the family. In the narrative approach, therapists try to understand how clients' personal beliefs and perceptions, or narratives, shape their self-concept and personal relationships. Individual clients of families are then encouraged to reconstruct their narratives to facilitate more adaptive views of themselves and more effective interpersonal interactions. White's leadership of the narrative movement in family therapy is based not only on his imaginative ideas but also on his inspriational persistence in seeing the best in people even when they've lost faith in themselves. White is well-known for his persistence in challenging clients' negative self-beliefs and for his relentless optimism in helping people to develop healthier interpretations of their life experiences. White's tenaciously positive attitude has undoubtably contributed to his enormous success as a therapist.
Currently, White lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Together with his wife, Cheryl, White works at the Dulwich Centre, a training and clinical facility that also publishes the Dulwich Newsletter, which White uses to explore his ideas with the field.