What is Narrative Therapy?

By January 8, 2015

Today’s psychology focus is on Narrative Therapy.

You will love this approach if:

  • You are a person who processes your emotions verbally, aka. “you’re a talker.”
  • You enjoy approaching your feelings through insight.
  • You are not remotely aware of your inner dialogue and can’t understand why you keep repeating the same mistakes.
  • You want to be respected as the expert on your life and could use a little help.

narrative-therapyNarrative Therapy began with the work of Michael White, an Australian social worker, and David Epston, who published Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends.

It focuses on the story you tell yourself concerning your problem(s). Its basic assumption is that your identity is revealed in the “dominant story” you have about the dilemma that causes you to act in a particular way. It is premised on the belief that you are socially constructed by your personal influences and cultural biases. Resolution then comes by looking closely at what these influences are and discovering what perspectives have been lost to you as a consequence.

Narrative therapy seeks to “re-story” your experience and sense of self by broadening your awareness to include the silenced beliefs, attitudes, and values that get marginalized by your dominating script. Narrative therapy uses exploratory dialogue and reflection to explicate psychological essences leading to “richer stories” that bring more emotional resource and insights necessary to address the problem at hand.

Narrative Therapy is a non-pathologizing approach where you are viewed as separate from the problem. By removing you as the storyteller from the story, you are able to access natural competencies and skills to change your life. You are considered the expert on your life.

What happens in a narrative therapy counseling session?

  • Exploration of your dominate story through therapeutic dialogue and exploration, where the therapist is seen as a “collaborator”
  • Deconstruction of the dominant story through time, place, and plot
  • Seeing what is “absent but implicit” in your dominant story
  • Writing exercises to deepen and surface new perspectives and possibilities as well as “alternate” or “preferred” storylines
  • Reinforcement of the new story through action

Resources for further exploration:

“What is Narrative Therapy?” by Alice Morgan

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