What is Narrative Therapy: Definition, Techniques and Benefits

Last Update on September 13, 2022 : Published on March 5, 2022
Narrative therapy

We all have a narrative of how our life has been. We have a certain perception (positive or negative) of incidents that take place in our life. Those perceptions create a lens through which we evaluate our experience in life.

What narrative therapy does is, it helps you shift a negative perspective to a positive one. It helps you change your own story. There is no point cribbing about how miserable your life has been.

Look for the silver lining because someone great once said, “You never fail, you only learn new lessons”

Let’s explore narrative therapy in detail…

What Is Narrative Therapy?

The narrative therapy was developed by New Zealand-based therapists Michael White and David Epston. They initially developed it to have an empowering effect on people and also work as counseling.

Narrative psychotherapy is a type of therapeutic approach that helps you understand your life experience better. It helps you change a negative narrative to a positive one by simply understanding yourself better and making some thought-altering changes.

Your perception has a major role to play here. We often have a story (narrative) in our mind, stored in the form of memory associated with different events in our life. We tend to see ourselves and the world through those perceptions and that has a direct influence on our self-esteem, self-worth, strengths & weaknesses, relationships, etc. and Narrative therapy helps you create a strong, empowering story for yourself.

Narrative Therapy Techniques

There are a lot of techniques and exercises used in narrative therapy, it cannot be compressed in one blog so I have decided to list some of the most common narrative therapy techniques so that you get the gist of the whole thing.

1. Putting a story together: in this technique, you and your therapist view your experience from an observer’s point of view. It helps you understand the problematic approach and helps you fix it.

2. Externalisation: The ability to distance yourself from your problem is called externalization. It basically sums up to ‘you are not your mistakes. For example; you can make a parenting mistake but you are not a bad parent.

3. Deconstruction: Your therapist will help you break down a problematic story of yours so that it decreases the complexities and you can understand it better.

4. Unique outcomes: sometimes you are stuck with only one climax of your story which is of course problematic. Your therapist will help you ‘unstuck’ and look at your story in a new light to get a healthy unique outcome.

These are some of the techniques used by narrative therapists but I am sure you got a hang of how the therapy works. The main idea is to change the narrative/story from being negative and problematic to positive and growth-promoting.

Principles Of Narrative Therapy

The narrative therapists mainly function on three key principles which form the base of the therapeutic process. These key principles of narrative therapy are;

1. Respect: respect is the most important aspect of narrative therapy. Each participant of narrative therapy is treated with respect no matter what they have done in life and are applauded for how brave they are to voice their problematic issues.

2. No blaming: we are human and make millions of mistakes in our entire life. A narrative therapist will practise non-blaming so that you don’t feel ashamed and it also promotes honesty while describing their thoughts.

3. Client first: at no point during the therapy, your therapist takes the lead. They are there just to guide you and help you identify where you went wrong. You will alway be in control from deciding what to talk about to how you want the outcome to be.

Different Folds Of Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy can be as wide as you may want it to be. The nature of narrative therapy is so general yet so precise that it can be used in many forms. There are many folds to narrative therapy, some of them are;

1. Narrative Counselling: narrative counseling included guiding the client through their journey of self-acceptance and actualization. Through narrative counseling, you can get to know yourself better, make better decisions, eliminate self-blaming practices, etc.

2. Solution-Focused Narrative Therapy: In Solution-focused narrative therapy the therapist will help you build a solution-focused thought process rather than having a problem-focused thought process. It helps you work your creativity which increases your problem-solving skills.

3. Narrative Couple Therapy: as the name suggests, the therapist works on the premise of problematic stories among couples. Through narrative therapy, you will be guided to solve issues by understanding each other’s pers[ective and rectifying your negative approach.

Benefits Of Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy can benefit a number of mental health conditions. There are various benefits of narrative therapy because it literally lets you get rid of the negativity and helps you make space for positivity. 

Let’s look at some benefits of narrative therapy;

  • Helps in increasing self-awareness 
  • Narrative therapy increases personal responsibility 
  • Improves decision-making skills 
  • Narrative therapy helps you solve your problems 
  • Decreases symptoms of anxiety 
  • Increases quality of life 
  • Improves decision making, empathy, and social skills in children 

Narrative therapy basically will help anyone who is often troubled by negative thoughts. Narrative therapy focuses on eliminating negative thoughts that you have about yourself or your life. Here are a few mental health conditions where narrative therapy can work wonders;

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Narrative therapy can be used for various mental health conditions like anxiety, attachment issues, eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc.

If you have been suffering from a mental health condition, give narrative therapy a try. If nothing you can at least get things off your chest!

I hope you found this blog about narrative therapy interesting and helpful! Narrative therapy can help you change your story, undo things in your unique way!

Thanks for reading!

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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