Landscapes of Action and Identity

In one of his final books, “Maps of Narrative Practice” (2007), Michael White discusses the theoretical (including the literary) foundations of Narrative Therapy. One of the valuable distinctions he makes is between Landscapes of Action and Landscape of Identity (note that he borrows these concepts from literary analysis and substitutes Landscapes of Identity for Landscapes of Consciousness, as he found that “consciousness” was open to unhelpful interpretations in his work).

Landscapes of Action related to the questioning of clients in re-authoring conversations, in which Michael attempted to look for unique outcomes. These questions revolved around looking for situations in the history of client in which the dominant theme did not adequately describe the client’s actions.

Landscapes of Identity involved questions that attempt to get clients to consider how the events in the Landscape of Action unique outcomes could be interpreted by the client. So, while the Landscape of Action questions might involve something like, “Can you think of a time in which you didn’t react this way [consistent with the dominant narrative]?” – the Landscape of Identity question could be “What do you think it says about you that you responded differently this time?”

Landscape of Action questions look for exceptions, Landscape of Identity questions look for interpretations of these exceptions. Conceptualising the process like this allows the therapist to look for unique outcomes and then help the client to consider how these unique outcomes might be interpreted in the recreating of narratives for life.