A proposal for an interview format and practices of appreciation1 that value teachers’ and students’ knowledges in schools

Maria Kecskemeti & David Epston


1. The ‘Problems’ of the consultant – teacher relationship

After attending a one week long ‘intensive’ on ‘Narrative Therapy with Children and their Families’ in 1996, I joined a training / consultation group led by David Epston. Along with 20+ colleagues from the Wellington / Wairarapa area we met with David for two days three times over the course of 1997. The majority in that group were resource teachers2 guidance and learning, educational psychologists and counsellors, working in educational settings. We are called in, when either a student or a teacher is overwhelmed by ‘a problem’. We are considered to be in possession of a ‘knowledge’ to manage difficult behaviors, which when brought to bear on them will produce a ‘solution’.

During our discussions, the members of my training / consultation group voiced several concerns regarding our work. We considered these concerns to be roadblocks on the way to a potentially more co-operative and less problematic relationship between us – as consultants – and teachers; as consultees. The problematics that concerned us can be summarised in the following:

  1. The consultant’s (our) enthusiasm for the child’s or the teacher’s own changed relationship with the Problem isn’t always shared by teachers. When we enthuse more, some teachers become even less enthusiastic. Consequently, we have observed that teachers might ‘forget to remember’3 their most helpful, anti-problem practices under the strong influence of such a Problem. After a period of success when a Problem might re-assert itself, teachers are vulnerable to reverting back to a problem-dominated view of their practices and their relationship to the child. The periods leading up to such reverses are often read as ‘honeymoons’ with no relation to everyday classroom reality.
  2. Teachers often find it difficult to take up where the ‘consultant’ has left off and forward the ‘work’ in a similar fashion or to welcome a child on returning from a one-on-one consultation or suspension. Returning the child ‘cured’ after a successful intervention to a teacher who has been humiliated by the seemingly intractable ‘nature’ of the Problem often results in the teacher refusing to take up the recommendations of the consultant or even acknowledge the ‘changes’ we are so enthusiastic about in the first place.
  3. Teachers, feeling desperation about the Problem have a tendency to blame the children, their parents or others. On odd occasions, we are regarded to be in league with the culprits, if not the offender.

I very much regret the occasional dividing and goodwill-draining effects of such Problems on my relationships with the teachers, to whom I consult. The above described problem-induced responses on the teachers’ part to the outside consultant may sometimes become the obstacles that stand in the way of co-operation in the teacher-consultant relationship. Teachers’ understandable responses to such Problems, which visit their classrooms, can transform into the Problems of the teacher-consultant relationship. (The problems in the consultant – teacher relationship are presented here as the consultants’ story about this relationship. It would be fair to present the teachers’ story about this matter as well.)

2. Remembering Mission

The members of the group shared their speculations for the abovementioned Problems. Here are some of those – 1) teachers might experience the ‘expert’s’ input as critique, 2) teachers’ knowledges are neither valued nor given equal weight or status to those of the consultants, and 3) such consultations take place in a school ‘politics’ whereby visits by Problems are taken to be supportive arguments in ‘incompetence stories’ about teachers.

As a response to our concerns David introduced us the concept of appreciation practices as an alternative to competition and critique. He challenged us to ask questions of both the teachers and students in a manner that would allow the teachers to feel appreciated, to have some sense of agency in the changes that had occurred and to restore their faith in their ‘mission’ to teach. As quite a few of us in the training group were ex-teachers, David put us through an exercise around ‘mission’. He provided us with the following format of questions.

  • What was your cause / mission in deciding to become a teacher?
  • Who / what inspired you to see teaching as a site to serve your cause?
  • At any time in your career did you consider you were serving your cause to your satisfaction?
  • Can you recall any particular kids who have made your dedication to your cause worthwhile?

We paired off and took turns interviewing each other for around 20 or so minutes. The following is merely a selection of the answers to all or some of the questions given by teachers I later interviewed:

I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to help kids become lifelong learners, give them strategies to learn, to make myself redundant almost.



I felt honoured that I had a good education – I wanted to share my understanding of the world. I also realised that there are plenty of things I had to learn too – and what’s the best environment for that, if not a school.



I had several good teachers who inspired my choice, who encouraged me. I particularly remember my English teacher – she loved everything she taught and that love came through very strongly.

When the kids rush to me and say “Miss, I have found this, look at this or did you know this?” – that sort of excitement, the child learning and enjoying learning – that’s something that makes it worthwhile every day. I particularly enjoyed George this year. He was a real challenge. He started out real loud but he has calmed down, he is motivated, not hitting out like he used to. I feel like I have succeeded with him. But every kid is worth it!



Recurring themes in these reflections had to do with a willingness to help, a sense of service to another generation and making a difference to the lives of their students. Many teachers could readily recall a teacher of theirs who had made their studies interesting or made them feel worthy as a person. When we were doing this exercise, we also revelled in sharing similar stories of either touching or effecting the lives of our former students. We all seemed to have a ‘mission’, noble purposes and good intentions.

3. Mission undermined or temporarily forgotten

Problems can drag you down, for sure and you forget your helpful practices. It’s always easy to pick up on the negatives. Sometimes you don’t notice it on time and it’s catching up on you. I try very hard to put myself back in touch with my helpful practices, to catch myself, to notice the change in the tone of my voice and try to change my thinking but it can be too late. I occasionally have a longer negative phase. It’s like a nosedive. I know, that I need to get myself out of it, and if I don’t do it quickly, a lot of reconstruction has to be done. In a school system like ours, where we are cramped in a room the way we are a lot comes down to one person’s mood. If I find myself in an unhelpful state, I feel responsible to get out as fast as I can, but it’s not easy.



However, under the influence of severe Problems, a teacher’s mission, – the very cause that oriented them towards teaching as a career- can easily be forgotten. Daily battles with Problems can also undermine a teacher’s capability to persist with practising their best ‘anti-problem’ practices. During such hard times, understandably they are usually unable to share the consultant’s enthusiasm for ‘changes’ In fact it might be impossible for them to recognise the child’s and their own altered relationship with the Problem. Either the change may be too insubstantial, given the extent of their despair, or invisible, given that it is occurring first in the confines of an office-based consultation.

4. Remembering respectful and helpful practices

I remember this one teacher who decorated the class radically – he painted the desks and the window. He made the environment special and that encouraged me to learn. I like to make the environment nice and create a relaxed atmosphere. I love to share my love of discoveries and my love of the different topics.


I like to be proactive as much as I can. If George needs attention I come to him and notice him as an individual. He loves if I notice him for doing his work.



I developed a different, I feel more constructive way of rewarding kids – they can choose from pot plants or cooking ingredients and they can go with their group and bake a cake or something else. It’s constructive, they learn and enjoy the result of their work.



Inspired by the fermenting of experiences and ideas in my training / consultation group around ‘mission’ and ‘helping to remember back’4, I undertook to challenge my own consultation practices by devising a new approach to the very process of consultation itself. I intended to stretch my practice in the direction of respect and away from instructing or prescribing what teachers should do. I realised that my ‘expert’ position attaches more power to the strategies I recommend than to those of the teacher, thus it can silence teachers’ voices and push their practices into the shadow of the expert knowledges (Epston, 1989). The relative positions the ‘system’ offers us are not those of ‘equals’. However hard I might try, I too can still unconsciously reproduce practices of hierarchy and privileging the consultant’s knowledge over that of the teacher. Lukewarm responses, or even outright resistance to take up ‘my’ strategies or disagreement with my enthusiasm should come as no surprise to me.

I constructed some further questions, which I hoped would meet my dual criteria of support as well as resurrecting teachers’ forgotten knowledges (Foucault, 1980). These questions partly owe their existence to the inspiration of another exercise David had requested we do in 1996. We interviewed each other around the respectful practices we could remember benefiting from in our lives say from parents, grandparents, relatives etc. I melded the above with the ‘mission’ questions to evolve an ‘interview format for teachers who have forgotten to practice their best practices’.

My intention in inventing this set of questions, which followed the ‘mission’ questions, was to assist teachers to ‘remember back’ and remind themselves of respectful and helpful practices of their own or their mentors.

  • What respectful practices of your past teachers can you remember that have inspired your decision to take up teaching? What are they?
  • If you are using any of those practices, which ones are you finding most useful in overcoming Problems / keeping Problems out of your classroom?
  • What anti-problem practices of your own have you developed during your career? Would you be willing to share a few of them?

These lines of inquiry, I have found, can redirect teachers’ attention to the influence they have (or have had) over this specific Problem or such a Problem.

I think the fact that I take them aside and talk to them is important to them. I do a lot of discussing. I find out what really happened. I don’t just judge. I listen to both sides of the story and I think they like the fairness. I think George is going to remember that I take personal interest in the kids, in him and that I listen. I think his parents are also happy that he is more able to handle his anger now. He has improved heaps. Today Carl was annoying him and he came up and told me.

Carl continued to annoy him and every time he told me. He got angrier and angrier but he could walk away. By the end of the day you could tell he was upset. I talked to him then and he was still calm enough to talk. Well, that’s his self-control now. He would have ignored me in the past. I think that I have achieved something with him, but I wonder how much is me and how much is other things. There are so many factors and it’s a humble thing you know, you don’t want to say it was you, but I feel I have succeeded with him. I feel good about what I have done.



Teachers as agents of change – A redescription of the teacher’s relationship with the problem

Although teachers might have any number of anti-Problem practices in their repertoire, in the face of a severe Problem, they often distrust their own skills and know-how in dealing with it. In many school environments it is often the ‘expert’ knowledges preferred over those of teachers’. The following questions concerning the teacher’s influence over the Problem undertake to bring into the teacher’s conscious awareness the effects of their practices on the Problem:

  • How do you think these practices of yours help the children in your class overcome problems?
  • Which one out of all your practices do you think has supported Malcolm the most in putting the Problem out of the classroom?
  • Would it be helpful to keep this practice alive for the future in case other children might bring the same Problem into your classroom?
  • What do you think Malcolm is going to remember about you when he is thirty and he remembers his favourite teachers?
  • How strong do you think Caleb’s control over the problem would be without your input?
  • If it weren’t for your concern / referral how strong do you think the grip of this Problem would be on John’s life right now?
  • What part do you think you have played in Mark’s success in overcoming the Problem?

These questions help redescribe the teachers’ relationship with the Problem and sensitise teachers to the part they have played in the changes. This could make the process of taking the child back less difficult, as teachers are more likely to claim responsibility for the changes as well as for the continuation of the intervention. Their input is clearly valued.

Valuing teachers’ ‘indigenous knowledges’ (Foucault, 1980)- thickening the description of the teacher’s changed relationship with the problem

My advice to my colleagues is that you need to take the time to listen, to be interested in children. You’ve got to love the kids and care for them. If you loose control it’s because you don’t care. I don’t always do it naturally, I have to make a conscious effort, but I do it. My other advice is patience. It doesn’t come naturally but you learn. To be able to see and appreciate the small steps, to be able to deal with the problem on a daily basis, to leave it behind and come back the following day.

I’ve learnt a lot about teaching through this problem. It stretched my teaching in different directions. Dealing with George’s anger and the other problems has shaped my view of myself as a teacher – it helped me see that I can be successful, that I can cover all areas. There is more to teaching than just Maths and Reading. There’s a personal side as well, relating to the kids. I feel successful that way.



If teachers’ input is valued by the outside consultant, it is less likely that blaming practices will continue to be used. Teachers’ sense of agency in the changes and their self-appreciation can further be activated and restored by introducing questions, which would have them answer on behalf of some putative audiences as to their intentions, purposes for teaching or their qualities as a teacher:

  • What, out of all the things you have done for John, do you think his parents are going to thank you for?
  • What advice do you think your colleagues would be grateful to know from your experience in dealing with this Problem? Can you guess how that might support them if they had to face the same Problem?
  • If the Problem returned tomorrow could it talk you into self-doubt or shatter your image of yourself as a teacher? If not, why not?
  • If I ( your principal, a member of the Educational Review Office) were to observe you in your class using this anti-problem practice, what would I see you doing? What would it tell me about your teaching beliefs and values?
  • If Caleb’s parents were present in your class while you are helping their son put the Problem out in the corridor, what conclusions might they reach about your intentions / purposes as a teacher? your relationships with children? your teaching / human qualities?

Confirmation of the redescription of the teacher in letters of appreciation: documenting the teacher’s anti-problem practices (White & Epston, 1990)

Dear Mrs Johnston,
I would like to tell you how you are helping me with my Trouble Taming Project.
I like when you listen and not just to me, but to both sides of the story. You don’t take sides with people.
I am finding it difficult with relievers when they let things go on far too long. They should not put up with it, just like you don’t. You don’t put up with things for a very long time. You stop things at the beginning; you nip it in the bud. You also tell us what to expect and that’s helpful.
Thank you for listening:
Dear Mr Reynolds,
You probably know that I have been working on a Tantrum Taming Project for almost a year now. It has not been easy but I managed to keep Tantrum away for almost two terms this year.
In the last month or so however, Tantrum got a bit stronger and he managed to trick me into arguments and trouble. He has nearly taken all my power that I could use against it.
I don’t want Tantrum to take away all my power but he is making me weaker and weaker and I am finding it harder and harder to keep him away. I NEED SOME HELP!!!!
Would you please help me to grow my power bigger and shrink Tantrum (and his friends) smaller? If you notice that Tantrum is picking on me and I haven’t noticed you could help me by saying: ” Martin, remember your Tantrum Taming please.” Or you could also say “Martin, please don’t let Tantrum trick you. Please talk nicely.” When you say these, I feel it is much easier for me to keep Tantrum out of the classroom.
Thank you for helping me, yours sincerely:


The knowledges of students are seldom sought after by consultants, especially those beset by Problems. This means that it may be years and a chance meeting that would see a teacher receive anything approximating constructive or appreciative feedback from a student. There are very few opportunities for this in the day-to-day life of a school, even if it occurred to a child to do so. An ‘apple for the teacher’ is a rare event in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools. During one of our training / consultation meetings we constructed in small groups what David referred to as ‘appreciation questions’. Such questions were designed to be asked of students and/or their parents often at very strategic times eg the return of a student after suspension or a ‘special’ school placement, after more frequent visits by Problems or the teacher loosing faith in the effectiveness of his/her practices. Such questions have students and their parents assess the teacher’s respectful and helpful practices.

  • Did the fact that Mr/Mrs Smith helped you with your writing / listened to how you were feeling about things / asked you what you thought make you feel supported in your struggle with the Problem?
  • What was it, that Mr/Mrs Taylor did that helped you most in overcoming the Problem?
  • What told you that Mr/Miss/Mrs Smith was on your team? Took your side against the Problem?
  • If s/he were to take your side yet again, would you bet on yourself that will defeat your Problem? What odds would you give yourself and what odds would you give the Problem?

Receiving such ‘letters of appreciation’ allows the teachers to see their helpful practices through the eyes of their students. This strongly supports the ‘remembering back’ process on the part of the teacher. The conventional one-way communication between teacher and student ( “I know’ to ‘I don’t know’ ) is upset and made reciprocal. An alternative story to teacher despair and hopelessness is made very eventful. In fact, we cannot think of anything that means more to teachers than such letters of appreciation from their ‘problem’ students.


Dear Mrs Scott,
When I am going to be a parent I will remember that you helped me to tame my Temper. If my son needs help with outsmarting temper I’d like him to have a teacher like you. I’d like to say thank you for helping me carry on with my work and stop bullying people. When you talked to me and said, “It’s not good to bully others.” It helped me a lot. It makes me feel good and happy that you haven’t sent me away from the school”
Kind regards:


The counter-plot of teacher/student dealing with the Problem can be prospectively substantiated by asking questions that project some possible outcomes of the teacher’s interventions into a possible future. Students may need some time to consider such questions and an ‘apology’ is well-advised ahead of such a question, eg ‘Look, I know this question is really, really hard. I have even thought to myself that it is just too hard to ask you. But I thought I’d ask you anyways. But don’t be surprised if you have never thought of such a question in your wildest dreams. And I won’t at all be surprised if it takes you a minute or two to think about your answer. If my questions are beyond you, let me know and I’ll drop them.’

  • When you are 35 or so, what are the things you might remember fondly about your teacher?
  • When you are a Dad / Mum what memories will you tell your kids about the teachers that helped you change your life?
  • When you are an adult, to what extent do you guess your teacher will be partly responsible for you leading a different life than the one your Problem would have had you lead?
  • If your teacher didn’t play the part she played, do you think you would only have 10% Temper in your life right now?
  • If in the future your son/ daughter happens to get into the same kind of Trouble you got into, what sort of teacher would you try to find to be part of his/her team?
  • Would such a teacher have anything in common with Mr/Mrs/Miss Smith?
  • When you are grown up and are happy with your life and by chance you meet Mr/Mrs/Miss Smith in the shopping mall and get to talking about old times, is there anything you might tell her about the influence she had on the Problem?


Supporting and maintaining alternative descriptions by mutual appreciation

If the appreciation of the teachers’ helpful practices by the student can press home teacher; agency and teacher self -appreciation, can you imagine what happens if such a teacher goes one step further; mutual appreciation. Here is one such example:


Dear Miss M.
I know that you are on my team when you make me feel normal, like everybody else. I like when you put comments on my work.
I will try getting started on my work without you having to tell me.
From Russleigh
Dear Russ,
I feel supported in helping you when you work really hard on the work that I have set.
Last Tuesday (3rd of March) you went back to your desk and got started on your work quickly and quietly. I appreciated that you got your work done by yourself to a really high standard without me having to tell you to get started. I like the fact that you took pride in the work you were doing.
I’d like you to keep on going back to your desk and getting started on your own. If you don’t understand or don’t know what to do, just come and ask me for help quietly or put your hand up.
I feel that you have improved your work in the class already this year. It would be great to keep this up.
from Miss M.


Teachers writing back along the lines of how they feel supported by the student and furthermore how they could be assisted in providing more help can further extend the possibilities of the two (or multi-) way communication. My next step is to have students write such letters of appreciation to school principals, school boards, etc.

The teacher’s alternative story

The questions helped me think about what I have done. You don’t stop during the day to think that you have achieved something. I don’t think the problem would affect me much if it returned tomorrow. It wouldn’t make me feel powerless. It wouldn’t change my perspective that I have done all the things that I have done.

It (the interview) focuses you on your helpful practices especially after a negative patch so that you can’t repeat the negativity. Once you become aware of what creates the positive atmosphere, you become responsible to keep yourself aware. The questions also help you think about issues deeply. I tend to be retrospective anyway, but I appreciate the chance to reflect more.

Yes, I can see that I am doing all right with George now, though sometimes it’s easy to forget. I am making a difference, I just have to remember to see things in perspective – two steps forward and one step backwards, but we are never back at where we started off. I think his parents have noticed the changes too. He didn’t have to be referred to the guidance unit in the end. That’s success, isn’t it?



These attempts at addressing my common concerns and those of the training/consultation group regarding ‘consultations’ with desperate teachers by adding practices of ‘appreciation’ have gone a long way to take the competitive edge out of them. In addition, all knowledges; that of the consultant, teacher and student ; are pooled and can generate very surprising and pleasing results for all concerned.

The mission questions powerfully revitalise a teacher’s sense of service, their forgotten aims and causes for choosing the career they chose. The questions about ‘helpful practices’ can spark off the ‘re-remembering’ process (Madigan & Goldner, 1997). It becomes easier for teachers to see how Problems can undermine their work at the same time as putting themselves (back) in touch with their ‘teacher’ influence over such Problems. This allows for them to both share in and embrace the consultant’s enthusiasm for changes in the student. The questions that highlight the ‘part’ the teacher has played in the changes not only strengthen the teacher’s sense of agency but make it more likely that they will welcome their students back when the ‘consultant’ returns them either from office-based, one-on-one meetings or from special placements. Their reluctance or resistance to take up where the ‘consultant’ left off can be substantially diminished. As their ‘knowledge’ has been so obviously valued, such a consultation is rarely experienced as critique or ‘telling me what to do’. Rather their relationship with the Problem may have been redescribed to the extent that they are likely to take credit for the effects of any interventions. Their knowledge is valued by the outside ‘expert’, which puts them in the position of ‘equal’.

The appreciation of their practices helps them appreciate themselves so they are less likely to blame others. The plot of their changed relationship with the Problem is further thickened. The appreciation questions, which are asked from students and the answers to which are put in letters expand teachers’ self-appreciation into ‘real’ appreciation. They confirm their helpful practices by those who are the most authentic judges of such practices, namely, the students.The teacher’s alternative story is also repeated, supported and maintained by an audience. Such letter writing can become a multi-way channel of communicating appreciation and respect between the most important participants of the learning process; teachers, students, parents and consultants.

5. Remembering to ‘re-member’ – The consultant’s alternative story

The changes in the consultation process allow teachers to talk about and retell aspects of their practices; they are given an opportunity for the multiple contextualisation of their practice, which in turn might contribute to the derivation of new meanings. This process opens up new, so far unnoticed spaces for action. Our knowledge about the situation that presents a Problem is enriched and we are more able to generate new practices. I – the consultant; circulate and share these knowledges, which helps teachers attach new meaning to their existing practices or generate new practices.

In the past, when I didn’t make a conscious effort to use teachers’ knowledges in this way or to equalise our positions, I often used to despair about my practice as a consultant. In the absence of co-generation of knowledges I used to feel that I ‘failed to know what needs to be known’ (White, 1997), that all I could offer was never enough. My practice as a consultant was thinly described (White, 1997). By validating all the participants’ knowledges and reconstructing despair into useful practices both the teachers’ and my practices become more richly described.

The above changes to the consultation process also mean that I attempt to include more taking back practices (White, 1997) into it. It enables me to ‘remember not to forget’. Instead of blaming the teacher for not using the strategies I recommend, I am able to acknowledge my privileged status. Last year I consulted Richard, who was Mark’s teacher. Mark used to have daily temper tantrums and there was one occasion (after a period of increasingly frequent visits from the Problem), when Richard felt he had tried everything possible and he wanted Mark out of his class.

His desperation reminded me of my struggles as a consultant and also of the fact that I have the rare privilege of being allowed into many classes in twelve schools. Teachers share with me not only their desperation but their practices as well. When I circulate their knowledges I contribute to the generation of new practices. When Richard felt that nothing he had done was enough I shared with him a story, told to me by Janet. She used to be very anxious about her mothering and engaged in some self-blaming practices. However after some ‘appreciation questions’ she was able to see what she had done well and as we talked her mothering practices became redescribed, or as she put it ‘the story of sacrifice to the dragon’ was turned into ‘the story of the dragonslayer’. She also related how she was able to ‘take a bird’s eye view’ after our discussions instead of continuing to ‘walk in the forest, where you only see the trees, and you think you don’t get closer to the edge’.

Janet’s words helped Richard to reach a different conclusion about his contribution to Mark’s life; he said he needed to learn to ‘take the bird’s eye view and put things in perspective’, to notice and appreciate smaller changes. Richard’s conclusion, in turn, helped me remember that sometimes I expect too much from teachers, just like Richard might have expected Mark to make greater changes faster. Since consulting Richard and Janet and sharing in the difficulties they had to face daily, I am more able to appreciate the efforts behind every small change instead of taking them for granted.

Witnessing numerous teachers’ practices helps me reengage in my values and beliefs about teaching, reinterpret my actions and re-member my old teachers and school experiences into my life both as a consultant and as a person. Beverley’s account of her excitement about children’s discoveries and learning, her interest in the children beyond the academic subjects reminded me of my first teacher, Maria. Her unconditional belief in me and all the children in her class made school a pleasant place for me for life. I remember how she welcomed us when two or three of us visited her at home in the holidays. I even used to spend the occasional day with her and her parents for many years that followed. Twenty years later we became colleagues.

When I remember Maria, I also recall a special day of acknowledgement in the lives of teachers, students and parents back in Hungary. We had (and still have) a day called ‘The National Day for Educators’ in the end of each academic year. It is a day to celebrate teachers, a day when students and parents can express their gratitude for the contribution teachers make to their lives in the form of a bunch of flowers, thank you cards or small gifts. When I remember this day, I remember my first teacher’s tears of joy as she was standing there, receiving congratulations with her arms full of flowers. I can now have Maria with me, thanks to Beverley and at times of desperation I try to think about how I would acknowledge the work of the particular teacher I consult, had we been together at a celebration on a ‘National Day of Educators’. Instead of internalising any Problems we might have in our teacher; consultant relationship, instead of forgetting my mission and blaming the teacher for it I am able to continuously redescribe myself and my practice as a consultant.

Such changes to my consultation process considerably weaken the effects of any failure oriented practices I might engage in or encounter in the school setting. Overcoming teachers’ resistance overcomes my resistance. My life as a consultant and teacher becomes more richly described. The consultation process itself, my relationship with teachers, parents, students becomes re-membered so I am less likely to experience feelings of frustration, powerlessness or hopelessness.



Wellington / Wairarapa training /consultation group led by Tricia Lambert and Lynn Peace – I would like to acknowledge the inspiration of the group’s discussions and the exercises we did together on challenging my consultation practices and the development of the above described ‘alternative consultation process’. I also thank Linda Tucker, Jackie Williams and Kerry Jenner for reading this article at different stages of its development and their valuable comments.


  1. David Epston put us through several exercises regarding respectful and appreciation practices in our training / consultation group. Kerry Jenner, one of the members of our training/consultation group, who is a guidance counsellor at Wellington High School, has developed these practices further involving all the teachers and students and even parents at her school.
  2. Resource teachers provide advice and support to primary and intermediate school teachers and principals to meet the needs of students at risk of low achievement due to learning and/or behavioral difficulties. The main role of the RTG is to provide short term programme and teacher support interventions for individual students or groups of students who have been referred by schools. (Excerpts from Ministry of Education Memorandum of Attachment – Guidance and Learning Positions, February, 1996)
  3. This phrase is a reverse of ‘remembering to forget’ by David Epston as described in White, M. (1997) Narratives of Therapists’ Lives. Adelaide, Australia, Dulwich Centre Publications
  4. David Epston used this concept with our training / consultation group



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Epston,D. & White, M. (1992) Consulting Your Consultants: The documentation of alternative knowledges. In D. Epston & M. White, Experience, contradiction, narrative and imagination: Selected Papers of David Epston & Michael White, 1989 – 1991. (Pp 11 – 27) Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich centre Publications

Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings. New York: Pantheon Books.

Madigan, S. & Goldner, M. (1997) A Narrative Approach to Anorexia: Discourse, Reflexivity and Questions (unpublished manuscript)

White, M. (1997) Narratives of Therapists’ Lives. Adelaide, Australia:Dulwich Centre Publications

White, M. (1992) Deconstruction and Therapy In D. Epston & M. White, Experience, contradiction, narrative and imagination: Selected Papers of David Epston & Michael White, 1989 – 1991. (pp 109 – 153) Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich centre Publications

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