Narrative Therapy like CBT is a relatively new therapeutic approach to counseling. This therapeutic approach may be the newest of therapeutic approaches in modern psychotherapy. NT was co-developed my Michael White and David Epston. Their approach was introduced to the US in the 1990’s through the publication of their book, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends.
According to The Narrative Therapy Centre: Narrative therapy is a respectful and collaborative approach to counseling and community work. It focuses on the stories of people’s lives and is based on the idea that problems are manufactured in social, cultural and political contexts. Each person produces the meaning of their life from the stories that are available in these contexts. Counselors and therapists interested in narrative ideas and practices collaborate with people in stepping away from problem saturated and oppressive stories to discovering the ‘untold’ story which includes the preferred accounts of people’s lives (their intentions, hopes, commitments, values, desires and dreams). Counselors are listening to stories of people’s lives, cultures and religions and looking for clues of knowledge and skills which might assist people to live in accordance with their preferred way of being.
In essence, within a narrative therapy approach, the focus is not on ‘experts’ solving problems, ...it is on people discovering through conversations, the hopeful, preferred, and previously unrecognized and hidden possibilities contained within themselves and unseen story-lines. This is what Michael White would refer to as the ‘re-authoring’ of people’s stories and lives. (www.narrativetherapycentre.com).
Another way to view narrative therapy is to view the client as writing a story that they themselves do not like. They may view their lives/story as boring, sad, normal; or otherwise uneventful. Because of the “status” of their story and their dissatisfaction with it, they begin to create the “drama” they are missing. We must remember that often this is done on a subconscious level. So many clients express an aversion to boredom and a frustration with “normal”. Many of these same people struggle with significant behavioral issues in their lives. This clearly illustrates this concept behind NT.
Simply stated, maladaptive behavior in individuals lives are an attempt to re-write their stories to make them more interesting to themselves and others.
For my next post I will continue discussing NT, covering it’s strengths and weaknesses as well as common interventions used.