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Narrative Therapy


Narrative Therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston. Narrative Therapy is a method of therapy that attempts to separate the person from the problem. It is used as a form of community work and counseling and encourages people to rely on their own skill sets to minimize the problems that exist in their everyday lives. It holds the belief that a person’s identity is formed by our experiences or narratives. Because the problem is seen as a separate entity from the person, a therapist can help a client externalize sensitive issues. This objectification dissipates resistance and defenses and allows a client to address this entity in a more productive manner.

Narrative Therapy Can Improve Personal and Family Relationships

Narrative therapy is for individuals, couples, or families. In a couple or family setting, the narrative process provides an environment for respect and value to flourish. Rather than reverting to demeaning behaviors, reactions or remarks, the therapist guides the members of the groups through the narrative in a way that allows them to separate the problem from the individual. The technique of externalizing sets the stage for creating positive interactions and transforming negative communication or responses into more accepting, non-judgmental and meaningful exchanges. In narrative family therapy, as well as couple therapy, the therapist strives to help the clients identify with their experiences in a more adaptive and healthy manner that benefits all members of the group.

The Goals of Narrative Counseling

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At the core of Narrative Therapy is the belief that the problem is separate and distinctly apart from the person. A problem does not define a person. A problem is something that a person has, not something that a person is. The goal is not to transform who you are, but rather to transform the effect that the problem has on your life. Narrative Therapy utilizes the power of people’s personal stories to discover the life purpose of the narrator. Clients are encouraged, through a respectful and cooperative relationship, to address the problems in their lives that exist amidst social, political, and cultural storylines.

How Narrative Therapy Techniques Work

This method of externalization is applied to behaviors, values, beliefs, and ideals. Narrative Therapy explores what roles these elements play in the client’s narrative and then works with the client to rewrite the negative areas depicted in the narrative. Through objectification a client can view problematic situations from a new perspective. Although the narrative is intact, the character dynamic has shifted. Each component of a story can be manipulated and altered as to create a new ending to the narrative. Narratives are definitive at first glance, but are pliable and fluid when offered in the therapeutic environment. Each narrative is multi-dimensional and oftentimes a client will not be aware of certain plots, themes, or even characters until the narrative has been fully explored.

Narrative Therapy Techniques in Action

An example of narrative therapy would be when a therapist allows a client to verbalize their problems and then re-phrases the narrative in a disconnected way. For instance, if a client believes suffers with depression and feels like a failure, a narrative therapist may offer the suggestion that rather than being a failure, the client had succeeded in living with depression. Narrative therapists give credibility to emotions by naming them, but at the same time place them in the desired place on their client’s landscape. When a client feels like a failure, the therapist may acknowledge that the job they were employed at ended and it caused a sense of failure, thus removing the feeling of failure from the client and externalizing it.

The Benefits of Trying Out Narrative Counseling

There are many benefits of narrative therapy. One of the biggest benefits of engaging in this form of therapy is being able to sift through the past to uncover things that had previously remained hidden. Acting as a facilitator and an investigator, the therapist is able to pose questions that challenge prior conceptions and reveal maladaptive behaviors. This can be a thoroughly revealing process, resulting in an insight that cannot be achieved through other traditional forms of therapy. Having one’s life story spoken aloud can be illuminating. And through narrative therapy, a client is given the opportunity to edit and rewrite the remainder of their story.

Narrative Therapy Resources:

Narrative Approaches

The Dulwich Centre

Narrative Therapy Centre of Toronto

Narrative Training Centre

Wikipedia's Page about Narrative Therapy


Therapist Resources


Last updated: 04-01-2014


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