Insights on Narrative Therapy
April 17th, 2020
Narrative therapy is a form of cognitive restructuring. You can change your story to change your behavior and emotion. –Dr Kat
As you may already know, therapy comes in many forms. Whether you’re into more traditional therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or more out-there styles like art therapy or hypnotherapy, the best part of is that there are vast and varying options out there to fit everyone’s styles and needs.
I’m a recent Master’s grad, and I am still constantly discovering and learning about new therapies in the psychology world that are available. So I’m taking time today to discuss a new one for me, narrative therapy. “What is narrative therapy?” You likely ask yourself, as I, too, ask myself that same question. Narrative therapy is honestly pretty on par with what you might assume it is, based on its name. Essentially, narrative therapy is a form of therapy that places focus on storytelling, to allow people to separate themselves from their story or their narrative. People’s personal experiences become their stories and they have meaning and importance in their lives. Narrative therapy uses the power of these stories to help people separate themselves from their narrative, by becoming the “narrator.”
Narrative therapy was developed by two Kiwi therapists, Michael White and David Epston, in the ‘80s. They believed that in order for successful treatment, a person needed to be able to separate themselves from their problematic or destructive behaviors. Seems straight forward enough, yeah?
White and Epston’s therapeutic model includes three main ideas: (1) narrative therapy is respectful—the agency and dignity of each client are to be maintained and respected; (2) narrative therapy is non-blaming—clients are not to be blamed for their problems and are encouraged not to blame others either; (3) narrative therapy views the client as the expert—it is to be understood that clients are experts on their own lives and their own narratives. These points lay the foundation for narrative therapy, allowing for a beneficial therapeutic relationship, in which the therapist guides the client to growth and healing through separation.
The keyword here that should be underlined, italicised, and emboldened is separation. Narrative therapy really roots itself in the personal narrative, of course. And by doing so, by allowing someone to play narrator, to express their story, which may include problems and stressors, they are separating themselves—the person—from their story, or their problem.
With narrative therapy, it’s crucial to make the distinction between “I’m somebody who has problems” versus “I’m a problematic person.” And we do this through distancing ourselves through storytelling. By separating yourself from your problem, you may then externalize that said problem as opposed to internalizing it. In telling your story, you inherently distance yourself from your issue, and you instead see the story from a new perspective. And with a new perspective, you’re likely to feel more motivated to make a change in your life, with your thoughts and with your behaviors, guiding you towards healing and personal growth and development. Through narrative therapy, you’re given an opportunity to rewrite your story.
Our own Dr. Kat uses narrative therapy techniques, among others, here at Insight Wellness Center. She uses narrative therapy to help people understand new perspectives through storytelling. This helps people change realities based on the stories that they’re telling themselves in their head. If you’re interested in narrative therapy at Insight Wellness Center, call us (925) 216-3510 or visit our Book a Telehealth Appointment tab to register for a telehealth appointment.
Lauren Tortolero, MSc
Ackerman, C. E. (2019, July 4). 19 Narrative Therapy Techniques, Interventions Worksheets [PDF]. Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/narrative-therapy/
Narrative Therapy. (2018, June 18). Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/narrative-therapy
Narrative Therapy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/narrative-therapy