The plural term ‘knowledges’ is used to highlight that people have multiple sets of knowledge and that particular topics can be known in different ways.
Key sources of information about knowledges and skills are the unique outcomes and exceptions that stand against problem saturated narratives, as well as the precious things that the person has held onto throughout trauma, and the actions taken to protect these things described in their story.
White argues that these unique outcomes, values, and responses to trauma are shaped by certain “knowledges about life and skills of living” (also called practices of living). “The knowledges that we develop about our lives have much to do with what we give value to. Whatever it is that we accord value to in life provides for us a purpose in living, with a meaning for our lives, and with a sense of how to proceed in life … Once we can understand what a person gives value to we will have a foundation for the development of rich conversations that take us back into personal history, and that provide us with an account of how these important knowledges of life and practices of living were generated. This establishes fertile ground for the recovery and reinvigoration of the person’s ‘sense of myself’” (White, 2004; p47)
Knowledges about life and skills of living are core themes that are carefully identified and nurtured throughout the process of Narrative Therapy. The constructs originate from White’s distinction between landscapes of identity and landscapes of action (White, 2005).
Skills of living demonstrated by the person are further elaborated or thickened during conversations about landscapes of action while knowledges about life are elaborated in conversations about landscapes of identity.
This element has similarities to Competence seeking / Looking for strengths from Solution Focused Therapy. However there are important differences. Narrative Therapists are more interested in what people ‘know’ and ‘do’ rather than what they ‘have’ (White, 2005; p8).