“Re-Storying Disability” Workshop, Hong Kong

Shadow Puppetry We have been teaching in Hong Kong at the invitation of the Arts With the Disabled Association Hong Kong. Jennie and I both taught workshops under the “Training the Trainers” program. We each taught five days, on an alternating schedule. Given we mostly attended each others’ workshops, this meant we taught ten out of eleven days. This translated into four full days and six evenings, 7-10.

Working with ADA is a joy, and we loved every minute, including several late nights of delectable food and priceless companionship. The administrators and staff at ADA are immensely thoughtful, determined, and committed, both to the organization and disability rights. They made our workshops and our lives here in Hong Kong go as effortlessly as one can ever hope for. The workshop participants were artists, social workers, educators, and therapists. It is difficult to imagine a more engaged, creative, and caring group of people.

My workshop was entitled “Re-Storying Disability.” (Jennie taught “Using Expressive Arts with People with Disabilities.”)In my workshop we wove together Narrative Practice, Expressive Therapies, and Disability (Gimp) Theory. It was, for me, an homage to Michael White,and the many blessings he brought to my life and practice. I am grateful to the staff at ADA and the workshop participants  for bearing with me through a very full ten days. (Several people attended both workshops, usually after working all day.)

Narrative therapy is used extensively in Hong Kong, and some of the workshop participants had considerable prior training while other participants had none. In spite of this, we managed a long, rich conversation as I attempted to engage Disability issues, and disabling practices, using a Narrative frame. In doing so, I sought to extend the definition of disability to a range of attitudes and practices usually held outside the category of “disability”. I also attempted to extend Narrative practice to include Playback Theatre, shadow puppetry, and the visual arts, as methods for making disabling practices visible, and participants’ hopes, dreams, and aspirations tangible.

I find teaching Narrative practice rewarding and challenging. So many of the central ideas of Narrative practice run against the grain of Western psychotherapy that many clinicians find first encounters with the theory disorienting. Even persons who have extensive exposure to Narrative practices may be surprised by the radical shift in reasoning and intent that underlies much of Narrative therapy as I understand Michael’s vision of it. Add Disability theory to the mix and one has a potent brew indeed.

If that were not already more than enough, imagine everything translated from English to Cantonese, or vice-verse. I have immense appreciation for the patience and determination of my translator, Tristan, the workshop participants, and the staff. This workshop was truly a cooperative effort, seemingly negotiated at every turn.

I asked all involved to take ownership of their workshop, and they did. They guided me through the process, asking for changes in the presentation of the material, the exercises, and even the material itself. They told me when the workshop worked, and often, when it did not. How liberating! They also utilized our creative activities to make consistently beautiful objects and images. I think Michael would have liked the process. I hope he would have approved of the teaching.

2 thoughts on ““Re-Storying Disability” Workshop, Hong Kong

    1. I awoke this morning thinking about all of those who chose to work and spend time with us during the trip. I miss them already. I’m so very aware of their skill and knowledge in addressing local problems, and wonder whether the humility I feel in the face of their courage and commitment shows up in the writing. Joining those good folks for a short while is exactly what makes the work worthwhile, and the trips exciting.

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