Michael White, known as the founder of Narrative Therapy, was born in Adelaide, South Australia. He began his professional career working as a social worker in probation in welfare. After he graduated from the University of South Australia in 1979, he began practicing psychiatry as a social worker with the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. White went on to create the Dulwich Centre and opened his first practice specializing in family therapy. He maintained his affiliation with the Dulwich Centre throughout his life. White worked with Indigenous Aboriginal people, and focused on children, as well as people suffering with anorexia, bulimia, and schizophrenia.
He spent many years working and developing narrative therapy with his colleague and friend David Epston. Together they created a form of therapy that views people’s lives as a series of stories, waiting to be told, examined and explored in order to further future development and human growth. Drawing from his experience working with trauma victims, White was able to unite conflicting groups of people through the use of narrative therapy. With White’s help, communities in Canada were able to compromise years of land disputes. He used his expertise throughout the world, and especially in his native land of Australia. In 2008, shortly before his sudden death from a heart attack, White founded the Adelaide Narrative Therapy Center in Ontario Canada.
Contribution to Psychology
Narrative therapy is based on the theories developed by Michael White and David Epston. This form of therapy focuses on the client’s narrative, with the collaboration of the therapist. The client and therapist work together to develop richer life stories, and deeper narratives. The therapist will pose questions to the client to elicit colorful, expanded retelling of stories that may include details and nuances otherwise omitted from the experience at being recounted. Narrative therapy strives to segregate the client from their stories through externalization. Using structuralist paradigms, the client is taught to understand their relationship with their problem, and to distinguish themselves from the specific details and attributes of the event. The narrative motto: “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem,” is the goal in achieving a true understanding of that relationship. Through narrative therapy, clients are encouraged to recognize the positive influences of their own stories, and to develop them into the existence of their own identities.
Narrative therapy employs deconstruction and “meaning making” through the use of questioning and the development of the client/therapist alliance. Narrative therapy is applied in family therapy; however it has been effective in the various other arenas, including business, education, and communities.