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Micheal White(b. December 29, 1948 - d. April 4, 2008) was an Australian psychotherapist. He was been an important figure in the development of narrative therapy and wrote with David Epston ‘Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends’ an important initial text in the field.

He started out as a mechanical draughtsman before moving into social work and developing skills in family therapy.

Biography[edit | edit source]

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[1] 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[2] 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."[3]

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.


Hart (1995) suggested that White's therapeutic career developed in three phases.

Work[edit | edit source]

Influences[edit | edit source]

While early influences included those of systems theory and cybernetics (Gregory Bateson),[4] 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).[5]

Theoretical and practice innovations[edit | edit source]

Key therapeutic ideas developed by White include 'externalizing the problem',[6] 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:

  • The statement of position map / externalising conversations map
  • Re-authoring conversations
  • Re-membering conversations
  • Definitional ceremonies
  • Scaffolding conversations
  • The absent but implicit
  • Responding to personal failure conversations[7]


Honors[edit | edit source]

He received the following awards, honours, invitations:

  • International Fellow, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Masters Interview, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Conference, San Francisco, 1989.
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, John F. Kennedy University, Orinda, California.
  • Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Theory & Practice Award, American Family Therapy Academy, 1999.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

  • White, M. (1989). Selected papers. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
  • White, M. & Epston,D.(1990). ‘Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends’.W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-70098-4
  • Epston,D. & White, M.(1992) Experience, contradiction, narrative, and imagination--Selected papers of David Epston and Michael White, 1989-1991. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications
  • White, M. (1995). Re-authoring lives: Interviews and essays. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.
  • White, M., (1997).Narratives of Therapists' Lives. Dulwich Centre Publications.
  • White, M. (2000). Reflections on narrative practices: Essays and interviews. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Book Chapters[edit | edit source]

  • White, M. (1992). Deconstruction and therapy. In D. Epston & M. White, M., Experience, contradiction, narrative, and imagination--Selected papers of David Epston and Michael White, 1989-1991. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Papers[edit | edit source]

White, M. (1987). Family therapy and schizophrenia: Addressing the "in-the-corner" lifestyle. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Spring, 14-21.

White, M. (1988). The process of questioning: A therapy of literary merit. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Winter, 8-14.

White, M. (1989a). The externalizing of the problem and the re-authoring of lives and relationships. Dulwich Centre Newsletter, Summer, 3-20.

==Further reading

  • Bubenzer, D. L., & West, J. D. (1994). Michael White and the narrative perspective in therapy. [Family Journal], 2(1), 71-84.
  • Hart, B. (1995). Re-authoring the stories we work by: Situating the narrative approach in the presence of the family of therapists. [Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy], 16(4), 181-189. [Online version]
  • Munro, C., (1987). White and the cybernetic therapies: New of difference. [Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy], 8 (4), 183-192.

External links[edit | edit source]

Profile of White at Allyn & Bacon Family Therapy site



  1. Dulwich Centre
  2. Dulwich Centre Email News, January 2008 Issue # 25
  3. Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre
  4. White, M. & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, pp. 1-2.
  5. White, M. (2007). Maps of Narrative Practice. (New York: W.W. Norton)
  6. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, pp. 54-56.
  7. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends; Maps of Narrative Practice; White, M. (2000). Reflections on Narrative Practice Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications
  8. AFTA Awards page Accessed 6 May 2008. [dead link]
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