Lynn Hoffman describes sharevision in her book, Family Therapy: An Intimate History, “From talking to the group, I discovered that they liked the idea of doing a case consultation along the reflecting team lines. We agreed on the need to depathologize our work and found the emphasis on stories rather than problems immediately helpful. Of course, one hazard of a staff that bright and democratic was that everyone was equal but not all were the same. Case discussions could be like religious debates, as the tensions between individual orientations and relational orientations played themselves out.
I suggested we try something new: we would go round the room, and, instead of trying to give suggestions or advice to the person presenting a case we would come up with an image, a play, a movie, or a book. Personal experiences that resonated with the situation were encouraged. We would not engage in back-and-forth arguments, and we outlawed so-called constructive criticism, along with advice and suggestions of any sort. Baldwin was interested in narrative theory and other ideas that were coming out of the increasingly influential postmodern movement, so at first we called our process “narrative supervision.” Then Baldwin came up with “sharevision” (being something of a software nut, he was inspired by the computer term “shareware”), and it stuck. [The idea of shareware is software that is initially given away for free, and if the user likes it, and plans to use it, they are encouraged to send the developer some monetary compensation they can afford, or what they determine it is worth to them.]
The reflecting process turned out to be a process that actually did dissolve problems. Many of the dilemmas aired in agency case conferences were no-win binds where fixing a situation in one place only caused it to break down somewhere else. There were many cases where, for instance, an alcoholic husband would keep beating his wife, she would get a restraining order or go to a shelter, he would reappear sad and sorry, she would take him back, and everything would return to the status quo. The staff would bombard the therapist with suggestions, but she would often reject them, saying that she had tried each one. The group would then suggest that she refer the family to another therapist or agency. The therapist would refuse, the tension level would rise, and an argument over whether the therapist was “codependent” would break-out.
This kind of scene was guaranteed to produce the well-known occupational hazard called “burnout,” but once I began using a reflecting process, these tense escalations stopped. I began to think that burnout was an understandable side-effect of ineffectual help. In fact, the most pressing task of case conferences was often to upgrade the morale of the discouraged therapist. Once she felt more hopeful, she could often find new ways to deal with her intractable clients, if only to bear witness and “be there.”
When I first introduced a reflecting process, I noticed it had an amazing serenity effect. For one thing, everyone had his or her own space bubble. Unlike the case conferences of the past, there was no chance of being interrupted or not being able to get a word in edgewise. An anticipatory quietness prevailed; people would go off on riffs that were often inspiring and had the rest of us in a trance. I remember Shakespeare being invoked in reference to an alcoholic mother whose children were about to be taken away by the state. The therapist felt angry, useless, sad. In an unlikely comparison to Romeo and Juliet, someone said that even though the Bottle of Poison was threatening the Cause of Love, it had not yet succeeded, so despite the manifest dangers, she must be doing something right. This idea, while a bit ludicrous, gave the therapist some space and calmed her down.
To those who would say that this approach was not aggressive enough for child protection, I can only answer that this staff knew all about protection… They had entered the child protection field out of their own commitment to human rights, and to them it was personal. (Hoffman, 2002, pp. 186-187)