What is Narrative Therapy?
Narrative Therapy is an approach to help clients to re-author the stories they have lived by. When a person enters therapy, they have usually developed a dominant story about themselves that is full of problems and heavily influenced by cultural truths and systems. In Narrative Therapy, the client and therapist find alternative stories that are separate from the dominant story. These alternative stories are discovered through the exploration of situations that had unique outcomes. Through collaboration with the client and using the client as the expert of their own lives, the alternative story is enhanced, and the problem-saturated story is thinned out. At the conclusion of therapy, the alternative story becomes preferred and the new dominant story the client lives by.
How can Narrative Therapy help?
Through the identification of an alternative story, clients can widen their views of self and challenge old beliefs. By doing so, they can create a new way of living that reflects a more accurate and healthier story to live by.
What are the advantages of Narrative Therapy?
Narrative Therapy is a nonpathological, nonblaming, nonjudgemental approach to therapy that separates the problem from the person. It regards the client as the expert in their own life. Narrative Therapy focuses on the client’s strengths, skills, and knowledge rather than on their weaknesses and past failures. It helps clients look at their problem(s) from a more objective perspective. This in turn enables them to consider alternative interpretations of their story. By externalizing problems and viewing them as separate from themselves, therapy clients often feel less guarded and defensive. This enables them to engage more openly and proactively in the therapy process.
How does Narrative Therapy support diversity?
Narrative Therapy can involve conversations about oppressive cultural discourses that potentially relate to clients’ problems. The approach emphasizes the needs for continual vigilance against the subtle manifestations of culture: The examination of cultural influences is inherent. Regarding gender diversity, Narrative Therapy stands against oppressive practices, promoting the growth of clients from any group that has been the target of such practices. The approach to sexual diversity is similar in that Narrative Therapy recognizes the influence of the dominant cultural discourse about sexuality and how that may affect privileges afforded to heterosexuality over homosexuality and how the client may be potentially affected by this.
What will my sessions look like?
Therapy will involve storytelling and discovering and identifying the problem-saturated story as well as discovering times where an alternative story has proved to lead to wellness. For the therapist, this involves listening to the client as they share their stories and any issues they want to bring to therapy. Alternative stories will be examined and strengthened to become the preferred story the client can live by and continue to enhance to solidify wellness.
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White, M. (2000). Reflections on narrative practice: Essays and interviews. Dulwich Centre Publications.
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White, M. (2016). Narrative therapy classics. Dulwich Centre Pty.
White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. Norton.