Mental Health
Jul 16, 2024

Narrative Therapy

What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a non-blaming approach to human problems. It uses a respectful focus on people’s ability to externalize problems. By these means they are not considered as the “problem”. By creating some space around people, they are better able to use their abilities, including skills of living and self- knowledge, to deal with their life’s challenges. Individual values, attitudes, competencies, perceptions, and goals are brought forward as a part of alternative stories and used to reframe problem stories.  

Our life is a constant and evolving story. The multiple stories people are living at any one time differ and are acted out in the broader context of one’s family, community, and culture. For example, some of our stories are filled with successes and determination, while other stories of being wounded may show failure, dysfunction, or have tragic endings.  

Our ‘dominant’ stories often have a big influence on out daily coping and living and even on the path of our lives. Narrative therapy looks for even covered up stories which may aid the destructive influence of overwhelming problems and overworked storylines by highlighting them and bringing them forward.  

We can use this acronym as a guide for the Narrative Therapy process:  

I - Invitations of the problem  

S - Separate the person from the problem  

E - Externalising the problem  

E - Exceptions to the problem  

D - Deconstruction of the problem  

U - Unique outcomes  

R - Re-Authoring  

C - Circulation of the new story

Four Principles of Narrative Therapy:

1. Reality is socially constructed.  

2. Reality is influenced by and communicated through language.  

3. Having a narrative can help us organise and maintain our reality.  

4. There is no ‘objective reality’ or absolute truth.

How Does it Work?

Many people forget how complex and often interesting the sequence of one’s life can be. Many people have been so conditioned by negative sound bites that they start thinking of their own story in such a fashion.  

Thin descriptions: Negative self-descriptions allow little space for the complexities, contradictions and particularities of life. They tend to be surface descriptions, a pathologising (causal labelling) abstract if you will, which can camouflage real feelings, intentions, attitudes, desires, and the complex array of human emotions and interactions.  

Thick descriptions: People often label them-selves, or are labelled, as ‘bad’, ‘a troublemaker’, ‘looser’, or ‘lazy’. Sometimes such labels often hide strengths and cover up a more richly and thickly described account of one’s life, which should be brought forward.  

People who discover to form rich and ‘thick’ descriptions are often able to identify alternative stories or unique outcomes having far different consequences than the thin ones they often face on a daily basis. Thick descriptions about one’s experiences involve the expressions of fine detail of the storylines of a person’s life. A person can become the author of his own enriched stories leading to new alternative ways of dealing with problems. Some personal stories may require co-authorship, a coach or friend, who can offer reflection, active listening and clarification.

If you are interested in Narrative Therapy, feel free to call us at Drop of Life to inquire about our psychologists who practice this type of therapy!

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