Narrative Therapy is a powerful approach to counselling developed by family therapists Michael White and David Epston.
Central to Narrative Therapy is the idea that throughout life people create stories (or “narratives”) to interpret the events that happen to them. These stories have profound effects on how we live our lives. Some examples of common stories include:
- I’m a bad person
- I will not succeed in life
- People do not like me
- I’m not worthy of having a happy, loving relationship
All of the above stories are likely to have negative effects on a persons life. If strong enough they may lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression, loneliness or low self-esteem. These feelings can then become a problem for a person-over time we not only live these stories but they “live us”, in that we interpret future events in line with these stories. This can then become a very vicious cycle!
When a client comes to counselling, he or she is likely to be living a story with negative effects. The job of a narrative therapist is to help the client reduce or eliminate the influence of this problematic story. Often this is done by looking for the exceptions to the problematic story, especially exceptions that stand for who the client would prefer to be. These exceptions can then be joined together to form a new story-one with different and far more positive effects on the clients life. The client can then break free of the problematic story and life a live that the client wants to live!
How is Narrative Therapy different from other therapies?
Narrative Therapy is different from other therapies in many ways. Firstly, Narrative therapists do not assume that current problems are related to a clients childhood, parenting or attachments before the age of five! Instead clients relationships with problems are investigated and clients are encouraged to negotiate new relationships with problems-often locating the problem well outside the client’s life! This means that Narrative Therapy is a quicker, more exciting and more energising approach to therapy!
Narrative therapy is also an extremely optimistic therapy. People are commonly seen in Narrative Therapy as active agents (and sometimes even “heros”) in their own lives. Narrative therapists are profoudly interested a person’s skills, knowledges, talents and expertise. Narrative therapists also have many conversations with clients about their hopes, dreams, plans and wishes for their future, and what these hopes, dreams, plans and wishes say about the client now. In this way narrative therapy conversations can be incredibly exciting-not only are problems commonly eliminated, but many options for a client to live in new and powerful ways are created!
Narrative therapy is a perfect therapy modality for individuals, couples and families.