Narrative therapy, a psychotherapeutic approach, emerged in the late 20th century with strong influences from postmodern philosophy. Michael White, an Australian social worker, is often credited as one of its founders. He and collaborator David Epston, a New Zealand family therapist, applied postmodern ideas to therapy in the 1980s. The central concept of narrative therapy is the "externalization of problems," encouraging individuals to separate their problems from their identities. This shift in perspective allows for empowerment and opens the door to reshaping life stories by deconstructing dominant, often negative, narratives and creating alternative, more empowering narratives.
Over the years, narrative therapy has evolved and expanded, moving beyond clinical settings into schools, community organizations, and workplaces. It has gained international recognition and influence, with practitioners and trainers promoting its use worldwide. Ongoing research and development have refined the practice, making narrative therapy more effective and adaptable to a wide range of issues. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on cultural sensitivity and inclusivity, recognizing that narratives vary across cultures and contexts.
Focus theme / core-concept
The focus theme of narrative therapy revolves around the idea that people construct their understanding of themselves and their lives through the stories they tell.
1. Empowerment: Narrative therapy empowers individuals by involving them as co-authors of their own narratives, fostering a sense of agency and control over their lives.
2. Reducing Stigma: The approach focuses on understanding the influence of societal and cultural narratives on individuals' lives, reducing stigmatization, and promoting compassion for personal struggles.
3. Positive Meaning-Making: Clients are encouraged to explore and reinterpret the meanings they attach to their experiences, leading to more positive and constructive understandings, promoting growth and resilience.
4. Strengths-Based Approach: Narrative therapy emphasizes identifying and utilizing personal strengths and resources, boosting individuals' confidence in their ability to navigate challenges effectively.
5. Greater resilience: Through the process of re-authoring their narratives, individuals can develop greater resilience and coping skills, enabling them to better address life's challenges.
The goals of narrative therapy are centered on empowering individuals to transform problematic narratives into more empowering ones.
Externalizing problems, helps clients separate their issues from their identities, which reduces feelings of shame and self-blame.
By deconstructing dominant narratives that have shaped their lives, individuals can challenge limiting beliefs and explore alternative interpretations.
Re-authoring stories: Therapists collaborate with clients to co-author new narratives that emphasize strengths, resources, and personal agency, fostering a sense of control and active participation in shaping their future.
Identifying strengths: involves helping clients recognize their strengths, abilities, and resources that they can use to address their concerns and problems.
1. Putting Together Your 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.
2. Externalization: Putting together the story of their lives also allows people to observe themselves. This creates a gap between the client and their issues, called externalization.
3. Deconstruction: Deconstruction is used to help people gain clarity in their stories.
4. Unique Outcomes: 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.