Narrative Therapy

Copyright 2016 by Barry Borham    All Rights reserved    E-Mail: barry@shirepsych.com.au
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Narrative Therapy
Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy using narrative. It was initially developed during the 1970s and 1980s, largely by Australian social worker Michael White and his friend and colleague, David Epston, of New Zealand.

Their approach became prevalent in North America with the 1990 publication of their book, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends, followed by numerous books and articles about previously unmanageable cases of anorexia nervosa, ADHD, schizophrenia, and many other problems. In 2007 White published Maps of Narrative Practice, a presentation of six kinds of key conversations.

The narrative therapist focuses upon narrative in the therapy. The narrative therapist is a collaborator with the client in the process of developing richer (or "thicker") narratives. In this process, narrative therapists ask questions to generate experientially vivid descriptions of life events that are not currently included in the plot of the problematic story.

By conceptualizing a non-essentialized identity, narrative practices separate persons from qualities or attributes that are taken-for-granted essentialisms within modernist and structuralist paradigms. This process of externalization allows people to consider their relationships with problems, thus the narrative motto: “The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.” So-called strengths or positive attributes are also externalized, allowing people to engage in the construction and performance of preferred identities.

Operationally, narrative therapy involves a process of deconstruction and "meaning making" which are achieved through questioning and collaboration with the client. While narrative work is typically located within the field of family therapy, many authors and practitioners report using these ideas and practices in community work, schools and higher education.

Although narrative therapists may work somewhat differently (for example, Epston uses letters and other documents with his clients, though this particular practice is not essential to narrative therapy), there are several common elements that might lead one to decide that a therapist is working "narratively" with clients.