Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift have spent more than 30 years working to ensure that people with disabilities are able to take their rightful place in schools, workplaces, and communities. They have a private practice in narrative counseling and narrative mediation in Vancouver, B.C. They also travel extensively throughout North America and abroad providing in-service and training to school districts, human service agencies, employers and advocacy groups.
Norman and Emma believe that the most significant barriers confronting people with disabilities are the dominant narratives about disability that exist in society and in the “helping professions.” Specifically, they believe that there is a pervasive “narrative of correction” throughout the fields of special education, rehabilitation and behavioral support that inadvertently implants an identity of inadequacy in the people being supported.
As counselors and presenters, Norman and Emma are keenly interested in exploring:
- how these counter-productive narratives play out in people’s lives,
- the ways in which people learn to resist these narratives
and, most importantly,
- the alternative narratives that enable people with disabilities to discover the unique contribution they make in our society.
Born with cerebral palsy, Norman attended a segregated school for children with physical disabilities; then, at the age 13, he was integrated into a regular school. From there, he went on to complete an Bachelor’s degree in Humanities and a Master of Science degree in Family Therapy.
In his undergraduate years, Norman wrote a book about his experiences of going to a regular school. This book catapulted him into a career as a speaker, writer, scholar and advocate.
Emma is a mediator and counselor and holds a Master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Management from Royal Roads University as well as certification in third party dispute resolution and negotiation from the Justice Institute in Vancouver, B.C. Prior to joining forces with Norman, Emma worked as a labour relations director for a non-profit organization on Vancouver Island.
Emma is a faculty member at the Justice Institute, Vancouver Island University, and Royal Roads University.
In 2010, Norman and Emma became intrigued by the field of narrative therapy as it provided a clinical framework that was consistent with disability theory and recognized the depth of impact social values and professional prerogative has in the lives of people with disabilities. They were struck by the the potential applicability that the narrative approach had to the challenges being faced by individuals with disabilities and their families. This led Emma and Norman to complete advanced training at the Vancouver School of Narrative Therapy.
When Norm and Emma aren’t working, they enjoy cycling, good food, and discussing esoteric books on post-modernist theory. Rumor has it that Emma is also working on a mystery novel.