Tree of Life and Tree of life and working with groups and communities- Level Three

Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo, co-developer of this narrative therapeutic approach will deliver a one day course from her home in South Africa.

Date: Sat 4th December 2021

Time: 12pm – 4.30pm
Venue: Online via Zoom



The Tree of Life approach speaks to people across cultures and engages families where other therapeutic approaches might be met with resistance.

Image of Eugene and Ncazelo

Eugene Ellis talks with Ncazelo about the Tree of life training and what participants can expect. Watch here

It is a collaborative, culturally sensitive counselling methodology that has been used by many practitioners in the UK in the provision of mental health services. Mental health practitioners have found the methodology relevant and supportive in various areas of their work including:

• Work with refugees and ethnic minority groups
• Work with parents
• Work with children and young people
• Work with adults living with HIV
• Work with older adults
• Work with people with learning disabilities
• Work with people living with cancer

This 4.5 hour training will offer participants an opportunity to learn the:

  • Setting up Tree of life groups

  •  How to get started

  • Benefits of the group approach

  • Different types of Tree of Life groups

  • Monitoring groups etc.

The Tree of Life is a counselling methodology that is informed by Narrative Therapy ideas. It has been developed to ensure that children and others who have experienced significant hardships and trauma are emotionally safe when they relate stories about their lives and the problems that they have faced. The methodology creates an opportunity for people to take a break from the dominant (sad and negative) stories of their lives and step into stories that give them hope and acknowledge the skills, values and dreams that they have for their lives. These stories are called the second or alternative stories about people’s lives; they can be like a medicine or antidote to the problems and hardships that people have experienced.


Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo has described her work as The Imbeleko Approach to therapeutic practice. Imbeleko is a Zulu word symbolic and representative of home grown knowledges and wisdoms to provide care and support. Drawing on Narrative Practices and the work of Michael White, Ncazelo has been able to integrate narrative ideas in methods which are culturally and contextually meaningful for the people and communities that she works with.

The Imbeleko approach has 8 core principles of practice:

1. Develop home grown strategies, skills and methods to facilitate healing and recovery
2. Partnerships with those affected by problems to seek solutions on matters that affect their lives
3. Transformative therapies to support people affected by various problems to take action and become agents of change
4. Use of collective and collaborative therapeutic practices
5. Adapting existing therapies, where relevant, to t within local
culture and context
6. Facilitate social connectedness
7. Do no harm and ensure emotional safety
8. Celebration of movement or Kartharsis

Who should attend the training

Psychotherapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, holistic therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and individuals involved in the mental health field, caring professions and those concerned about mental health.

Date: Sat 4th December 2021
Time: 12pm – 4.30pm
Venue: Online (via Zoom)

Cost: ndividuals £80, BAATN Members £70, BAATN Student member £60


See Ncazelo’s other online trainings and supervision for 2021 on her website.

About Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo

Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo is the pioneer and co-developer of the Tree of Life Counselling Methodology. She is a Psychologist, Narrative Therapist and Psychosocial Specialist with over 15 years’ experience working in the area of mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. She specializes in designing programs and interventions for various vulnerable groups and communities. Her work has largely focused on supporting children, women and communities affected by HIV and AIDS, poverty and conflict in East and Southern Africa. Ncazelo has travelled extensively in Africa, Europe and Australia providing training in responding to hardships and trauma and sharing her experiences with mental health practitioners. Over the years, Ncazelo’s work has focused on developing culturally sensitive therapies to respond to the hardships and trauma experienced by children, women and communities. Her work is defined by what she terms the Imbeleko Approach to Therapeutic Practice born out of culturally sensitive practice. In recent years, Ncazelo Ncube-Mlilo has developed other creative narrative practice methodologies. These have included combining the Suitcase project (Glynis Clacherty, 2004) with narrative practice and journey metaphors (see: More recently, working in partnership with six women living in informal settlements in northern Johannesburg, Ncazelo has developed the COURRAGE methodology. COURRAGE is a collective narrative way of working that has been developed to privilege the alternative stories of women who have faced significant hardships. It seeks to honour the strengths, skills and courage women show and use in the face of sorrow and grief.


In 2016 Ncazelo set up an organisation called Phola to reach marginalised children, women, families and communities affected by trauma related to poverty, losses, violence, HIV and AIDS, statelessness, conflict etc. Ncazelo’s vision for Phola is to bring hope and restore the lives of women, children and families using home grown therapies and creating mobile counselling services that are culturally appropriate and can reach the most disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities.

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