Report review: Drugs, hopes and dreams

| Helen Sharp

Published by – The Association for Family Therapy

Author – Elspeth McAdam and K. A. H. Mirza

Date of publication – 2009

“Our will, our acts, aspirations and hopes can change the world around us and the very structure of the brain cells with which we think.”

The fact that this is an academic paper in a science journal shouldn’t put you off, and I admit I get a bit lost with the neuroscience terminology, but those sections aren’t vital to the understanding the whole. I would urge you to read this, because it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for the caring professions and those commissioning them.

You might be familiar with appreciative inquiry (AI) on an organisational level – this describes how to use AI on a therapeutic level and after I read this paper, I worked with Elspeth and Mirza to develop an ‘imagine project’ in Lambeth – the i-Dream Alliance – and it was inspirational.

The therapeutic approach uses the first two stages of the AI cycle – discovery and dreaming – to reveal skills and abilities in a person that may not have been recognised and valued before and with these newly discovered talents, the person is allowed and encouraged to dream a different future for themselves.

Elspeth and Mirza challenge traditional support services which focus on the need to reduce symptoms or the removal of something, with these concepts:

  • That what we do and dream can change the very structure of our brains (page 6).
  • That it is the stories of our future which shape our present more than the stories of the past (page 7).
  • That we must not underestimate the power of language as it is fundamental to creating our worlds and our sense of identity (page 8).
  • That AI positively encourages people to use their imagination to dream a different future for themselves, because in the world of imagination, everything is possible (page 12).

The paper starts with a story and parts of it are written in a beautifully poetic way; there are some stand-out metaphors and the language is appreciative and inspirational. It is both a conceptual piece as well as a practical one so if you want to give AI a go, they tell you how. And if this inspires you, you can learn more by contacting me.

“The language we use creates our worlds and our bodyhoods…. we literally live in language.”

You can read the full report here.

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