Narrative therapy is a method of therapy that separates a person from their problem. It encourages people to rely on their own skills to minimize problems that exist in their lives.
Throughout life, personal experiences become personal stories. People give these stories meaning, and the stories help shape a person’s identity. Narrative therapy uses the power of these stories to help people discover their life purpose. This is often done by assigning that person the role of “narrator” in their own story.
Who can Benefit?
This approach can be useful for anyone who feels like they are overwhelmed by negative experiences, thoughts, or emotions. Narrative therapy allows people to not only find their voice but to use their voice for good, helping them to become experts in their own lives and to live in a way that reflects their goals and values. It can be beneficial for individuals, couples, and families.
Narrative therapy can help people who are dealing with the following problems or concerns:
- Depression or Sadness
- Bipolar Disorder
- Substance Abuse or Misuse
- Parental Divorce or Discord
- Problems in School
- Explosive Behaviour
- Sexual Identity and/or Sexuality
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)/Responses to Trauma
- Other problems that interrupt or overtake happiness in one’s life
How does it Work?
There are a variety of techniques and exercises used in narrative therapy to help people heal and move past a problematic story. Some of the most used techniques include the following:
✽ Putting Together Your Narrative
Narrative therapists help their clients put together their narrative. This process allows the individual to find their voice and explore events in their lives and the meanings they have placed on these experiences. As their story is put together, the person becomes an observer to their story and looks at it with the therapist, working to identify the dominant and problematic story.
Putting together the story of their lives also allows people to observe themselves. This helps create distance between the individual and their problems, which is called externalization. This distance allows people to better focus on changing unwanted behaviours.
Deconstruction is used to help people gain clarity in their stories. When a problematic story feels like it has been around for a long time, people might use generalized statements and become confused in their own stories. A narrative therapist would work with the individual to break down their story into smaller parts, clarifying the problem and making it more approachable.
✽ Unique Outcomes
When a story feels concrete, as if it could never change, any idea of alternative stories goes out the window. People can become very stuck in their story and allow it to influence several areas of their lives, impacting decision-making, behaviours, experiences, and relationships.