Narrative Therapy

What Is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a form of counseling that views people as separate from their problems. This allows clients to get some distance from the issue to see how it might actually be helping them, or protecting them, more than it is hurting them. With this new perspective, individuals feel more empowered to make changes in their thought patterns and behavior and “rewrite” their life story for a future that reflects who they are, what they are capable of, and what their purpose is, separate from their problems.

When It's Used

Individuals, couples, and families can all benefit from narrative therapy. Those who define themselves by their problems, whose lives are dominated by such feelings as “I am a depressed person” or “I am an anxious person” can learn to see their problem as something they have but not something that identifies who they are.

What to Expect

Your therapist will encourage you to direct the conversation by asking what you prefer to talk about and, on an ongoing basis, checking to see if the topic, which is most likely a problem, is still something you are interested in discussing. After some time, your therapist will lead you to tell other, more positive stories from your life to help you discover inherent traits and skills that can be used to address your problems. The goal is for you to see how there are positive and productive ways to approach your life and your future when you stop identifying yourself by your problems.

How It Works

In narrative therapy, the events that occur over time in a person’s life are viewed as stories, some of which stand out as more significant or more fateful than others. These significant stories, usually stemming from negative events, can ultimately shape one’s identity. Beyond this identity, the narrative therapist views a client’s life as multitiered and full of possibilities that are just waiting to be discovered. The therapist does not act as the expert, but rather helps clients see how they are the experts regarding their own life and, as such, can uncover the dreams, values, goals, and skills that define who they really are, separate from their problems. These are the buried stories that can be rewritten and woven into the ongoing and future story of their lives.

What to Look for in a Narrative Therapist

A narrative therapist is a licensed mental health professional, social worker, or therapist who has additional training in narrative therapy through academic programs, intensive workshops, or online continuing education. In addition to checking credentials and experience, you should feel safe and comfortable working with any narrative therapist you choose.

Sources

Dulwich Centre: What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative Therapy Centre of Toronto: About Narrative Therapy