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Narrative therapy is an approach that uses stories and meaning making to help people recover mental health

Narrative Therapy: A Dialogical Approach to Recovery

What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative Therapy is a form of conversational therapy based on the proposition that we all tell stories about our lives and experiences, sometimes just to ourselves and sometimes to others, and that it is through the telling of these stories that we make meaning out of our experiences.

Often when people go to see a counsellor, their experiences of life are dominated by problem stories (for example: stories of ‘failure’, self-blame, a deficiency in something etc). Narrative therapists look for exceptions to problem-dominated stories because these exceptions are entry points into alternative stories (for example: stories of survival, of resilience, resistance, coping or managing etc). Although we sometimes find ourselves reducing our experience down to a few words (eg ‘I’m a failure at relationships’), other stories can and do exist. Therapeutic conversations can assist us to discover other possible ways of understanding our lives and to recover lost or forgotten experiences of ourselves and our relationships. A narrative therapist has learned and honed particular technical skills that can be used to investigate a range of problems, so these kinds of counselling conversations can even be quite enjoyable!

Narrative Therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that was largely developed by Michael White from Australia and David Epston from New Zealand but is now practiced all over the world including London. It offers a way to work in an appreciative way with people around their own experience rather than treating them as the objects of expert judgement or criticism. Narrative Therapy takes us outside of purely ‘scientific’ or biological ways of thinking about ourselves and our actions. Narrative Therapy looks instead towards our intentions, values, commitments, principles and our ‘hopes and dreams’. It also helps us recognise and resist the normative judgements (comparisons, for example) that are so strong in modern western society.

Narrative approaches can be used online through webcam as well as in traditional ‘face to face’ sessions with a therapist. Because Narrative Therapy does not locate problems within people, it is particularly helpful as an approach for anyone who may be under the influence of shame or guilt. Narrative Therapy can help free people from such difficulties by externalising problems or exploring the relationship we might have with a difficulty or experience or ourselves. It can assist us to develop influence over problems, or to start seeing ourselves as decision makers and help us get ‘back behind the steering wheel’ of our lives.

I use Narrative Therapy approaches in my work with counselling and therapy in English in Stockholm and online. If you would like to know more about Narrative Therapy, or you have some specific questions to ask, please contact me.