Friday, October 24, 2008

An Idea and an Offer from Lynn Hoffman

On-Line Reflective Consultation

By Lynn Hoffman

What is “Online Reflective Consultation”?

It means that the consultant joins as an “outsider witness,” in Michael White’s sense, with a therapist who wants a supervision experience but does not live nearby. That makes a line dance troop of the consultant, the therapist, and the person or family she is working with. Other people and creatures, real or imaginary, can be online reflectors too.

How does it work?

First, the therapist emails the consultant and enlists. She describes the situation she is working on and what she wants help with. The rules are that any messages from consultant to person or family will go through the therapist, who shares them at her discretion. Likewise, if the person or family wants to respond back to these messages, they must do so through the therapist. The consultant may not get between the therapist and family or take over unless circumstances demand it.

What does this process look like?

A Moebius Strip, where top and bottom are always shifting into each other’s space. The consultant takes the therapist’s hand, the therapist takes the person or family’s hand, and their responses to the consultant close the loop, which then goes on looping. We try to conduct ourselves “without rank,” as the philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin puts it, since this style of working emphasizes collaboration.

What are my credentials for offering this kind of consultation?

See Biography and Bibliography sections for information on my 45 year journey through the field of relational therapies. This year, having some new ideas about online consultation, I renewed my AAMFT Approved Supervisor credentials. Although AAMFT prefers face-to-face supervision, I found out that in cases of geographic hardship, it can be half and half. Currently, I am offering online supervision to a therapist in Canada who is getting the face-to-face requirements in the city where she teaches.

What are the possibilities for writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

An online exchange is archived automatically, so that with the appropriate permissions, one can create a story out of the work that has been done. Names and other identifiers can be changed and the print-out of the story can serve several purposes:

1. As an honoring testimonial for the person or family to keep.

2. As a paper which can be part of the qualification of the trainee.

3. As an article in a collection about Online Reflecting Consultation. In this
case, the consultant would be the main author.

What has been my previous experience in doing and writing about Online Reflecting Consultation?

From 1993-2004 I was part of psychologist Lois Shawver’s Postmodern Therapy Newsletter, a very literate online conversation having a connection to psychology, philosophy and therapeutic practice, and offering a periodic magazine.

From 1999-2001, I worked online with Gisela Schwartz, a psychologist from Austria, as a one-person “reflecting team” for several of the families she was seeing in her practice, and we put together stories about two of them. These will be published in “The Rhizome Way,” an online publication being assembled by myself and Chris Kinman, who is a community consultant in Vancouver, Canada, and a present writing partner. (See

From 2002 to 2004 I was invited by Lois Shawver to join the online faculty for the online Professional Development program as part of a Master’s Level course in Discursive Therapy offered by Massey University in New Zealand and Calgary University in Canada. This experience proved to me that it is possible to connect with people online using embodied language that has the power to move participants in unexpected ways.

I am also putting together the story of “Nina’s Box,” which tells of getting past a “stuck point” in a year long therapy. The therapist, Olga Sutherland, worked with me and her client, in a kind of three-way braid, for several months. At the end of this time, Olga had to leave for another city, and transferred her client to another therapist. But this client, on her own, decided to make a “healing box” out of bird’s eye maple and gave it to her therapist as a parting gift. This golden, beautifully made box amazed us all.

To whom am I offering this experience?

Practitioners who want a time-limited exposure to what some of us have called “Sharevision,” which is a horizontal, collaborative approach combining practices from the late Tom Andersen’s body-oriented “Reflecting Process” and ideas from Michael White’s poststructural “Narrative” orientation.

Trainees who need an experience of Online Reflecting Supervision with an Approved AAMFT Supervisor, and can complete the face-to-face time where they live.

Students in health and service fields who would like to enlarge their repertory by taking part in discussion groups focused on new ideas like “The Rhizome Way,” or by joining temporary reflecting teams for selected therapy interviews.

Other topic suggestions: “Notes on Sharevision,” - “Evidence for the Gutenberg Century,” - “Gregory Bateson and Ecologies of Mind,” - “Webwork and Netbuilding in Online Consultations”- “Decentralized Starfish Structures on the Internet” - “The Nature of Paralogical Conversations.”


If anyone is interesting in taking Lynn up on this offer, feel free to contact her at:

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