Enactive, solution-focused, interactional and narrative?

HESIAN brings together work relating to different forms of theory (enactive cognition) and practice connecting to the interactional brief therapy tradition (solution-focused, narrative and collaborative amongst others).

The inter-relationships, parallels and connections between these various schools and traditions is something we are actively exploring.

We hope that some kind of clearer view may result which can inform both academics and practitioners across a wide range of fields.

Enactive approach

The enactive approach, with roots in Wittgenstein's philosophy, views mind not as the property of an individual but rather an emerging dynamic in the relationship between an organism and its surroundings. This view was originally put forward in The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson and Rosch, 1991) and has seen significant progress over the past decade (see for example Stewart, Gapenne & Di Paulo, 2010), Hutto and Myin, 2013, McGann, De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2013).

This view is part of a 'post-cognitive' paradigm which rejects computational and representational theories of mind in favour of embodied, extended and embedded views. These ideas can be traced back to some of the foremost thinkers of the 20th century, including Ludwig Wittgenstein and Gregory Bateson.

Solution-focused practice

In parallel, there has been a growing interest in schools of practice which may be seen to connect with this paradigm. Solution-focused (SF) practice (de Shazer 1988, 1991, 1994, de Shazer et al 2007, Jackson and McKergow 2007) is one field which shows particular promise. Widely used at ground level in many contexts including the NHS, social work, education and coaching, and well supported by clinical research (Macdonald, 2011), the SF field has struggled to gain recognition partly because the practice tacitly rejects conventional cognitive assumptions in favour of conversations rooted in the clients' past and future lived experiences.

Narrative therapy and collaborative practices

Other schools including the narrative therapy of Michael White and David Epston, and collaborative practices developed by Harlene Anderson and Harry Goolishian, have taken similar lines, though from different origins.

The University of Hertfordshire has a leading position in both enactive and Wittgenteinian philosophy, and was also the first British university to teach an SF therapy module in 1995.

Having hosted the successful Orienting Solutions conference, the first SF research conference, in 2013, we seek to build on this position in the years to come.

  • References
    • Hutto, D. D. & Myin, E. (2013). Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds Without Content. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press
    • Jackson, P. Z. & McKergow, M. (2007). The Solutions Focus: Making coaching and change SIMPLE. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing
    • Macdonald, A. J. (2011). Solution-Focused Therapy: Theory, research and practice (2nd edition). London: Sage Publications.
    • McGann, M., De Jaegher, H. & Di Paolo, E. A. (2013) Enaction and Psychology. Review of General Psychology Vol 17 No 2 203-209
    • Shazer, S. de. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy (1st). New York: W.W. Norton.
    • Shazer, S. de. (1991). Putting difference to work (1st). New York: Norton.
    • Shazer, S. de. (1994). Words were originally magic (1st). New York: W.W. Norton.
    • Shazer, S. de, Dolan, Y. M., & Korman, H. (2007). More than miracles: The state of the art of solution-focused brief therapy. New York: Haworth Press. Retrieved from http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/74941464
    • Stewart, J. R.,Gapenne, O. & Di Paolo, E. A. (Eds.), Enaction. Toward a new paradigm for cognitive science. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
    • Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.