Michael White (psychotherapist)

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Michael White
Michael White photo.jpg
Michael White, October 2006; photograph by Jill Freedman
Born29 December 1948
Died4 April 2008(2008-04-04) (aged 59)
Occupationfamily therapist, author

Michael White (29 December 1948 4 April 2008) [1] was an Australian social worker and family therapist. He is known as the founder of narrative therapy, and for his significant contribution to psychotherapy and family therapy, which have been a source of techniques adopted by other approaches.



Michael Kingsley White was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia. His first professional job was as a probation and welfare worker. He earned an undergraduate social work degree from the University of South Australia in 1979 and worked as a psychiatric social worker at the Adelaide Children's Hospital. He founded the Dulwich Centre in 1983 and began a private practice as a family therapist. He continued to be associated with Dulwich Centre until his death.

White was a practicing social worker and co-director of the Dulwich Centre [2] in Adelaide, South Australia, and was author of several books of importance in the field of family therapy and narrative therapy.

In January 2008, White set up the Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre [3] to provide counselling services and training workshops relevant to work with individuals, couples, families, groups and communities and to provide a context for exploring recent developments relevant to narrative practice." [4]

Michael White was also particularly known for his work with children and Indigenous Aboriginal communities, as well as with schizophrenia, anorexia/bulimia, men's violence, and trauma.

He received the following awards, honours, invitations:



While early influences included those of systems theory and cybernetics (Gregory Bateson), [6] White's main work drew on a wide range of sources, including literary theory (Jerome Bruner), cultural anthropology (Clifford Geertz, Barbara Myerhoff, Victor Turner), non-structuralist psychology (William James, Lev Vygotsky) and French critical / post-structuralist philosophy (Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault). [7]

Theoretical and practice innovations

Key therapeutic ideas developed by White include 'externalizing the problem', [8] commonly summarised as 'the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem'; 're-authoring' the dominant stories of people's lives; and the idea of 'double-listening' to accounts of trauma: not only the accounts of trauma itself, but how people have responded to trauma.

Key practices of narrative therapy and 'maps' of narrative practice include:


Michael White's books have also been published in Danish, Spanish, Japanese, Swedish, Italian, German, Chinese, Finnish, French and Portuguese.

Magazine articles and radio features

Related Research Articles

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Music therapy

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Narrative therapy

Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to help patients identify their values and the skills associated with them. It provides the patient with knowledge of their ability to live these values so they can effectively confront current and future problems. The therapist seeks to help the patient co-author a new narrative about themselves by investigating the history of those values. Narrative therapy claims to be a social justice approach to therapeutic conversations, seeking to challenge dominant discourses that it claims shape people's lives in destructive ways. While narrative work is typically located within the field of family therapy, many authors and practitioners report using these ideas and practices in community work, schools and higher education. Narrative therapy has come to be associated with collaborative as well as person-centered therapy.

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Trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence-based psychotherapy or counselling that aims at addressing the needs of children and adolescents with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other difficulties related to traumatic life events. The goal of TF-CBT is to provide psychoeducation to both the child and the non-offending caregivers and help them to identify and cope with emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Research has shown TF-CBT to be effective in treating childhood PTSD and with children who have experienced traumatic events.

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  1. Pearce, Jeremy (28 April 2008). "Michael White, 59, Dies; Used Stories as Therapy". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
  2. Dulwich Centre
  3. Dulwich Centre Email News, January 2008 Issue # 25
  4. Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre Archived 6 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  5. AFTA Awards page Accessed 6 May 2008. Archived 20 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. White, M. & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, pp. 1-2.
  7. White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. (New York: W.W. Norton)
  8. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, pp. 54-56.
  9. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends; Maps of Narrative Practice; White, M. (2000). Reflections on Narrative Practice Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications