What is Narrative Therapy? | Center for Growth Therapy

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What is Narrative Therapy?

Alex Robboy

CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & Executive Director

What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a post-modern psychotherapy approach based on the tenets that everyone has a story. Rather than seeing the therapist as the person who will give you advice to work through your problems, a narrative therapist sees you as the expert on your own life and works with you to come up with goals. Sure, the therapist is an expert in the field with training in Marriage therapy and Family therapy or another psychology related field, but up until coming into the therapy office, the client has a truly unique experience based off of many contextual factors.

All people have problems and ways of coping with them. Two people with the same diagnosis or life event may respond in totally opposite ways that are equally valid. Some people just get stuck in ways of managing their problems. Therapists are able to help people sort through and resolve the issues of the past from the stories that are problematic for them in order to make sense of things in a more positive and healthy way for the future.

The therapeutic process is most successful when built on a solid connection. You have the right to find the best fit for yourself. A connection built on mutual trust and honesty is very healing in and of itself. That mixed with the knowledge and training of various interventions will help you rewrite your story. The process can be enhanced by you having a say in what works best for you in treatment. For example, if you heal best through the written word and find it more difficult to express yourself orally, writing exercises can be used in between therapy sessions. If you like music or dance, narrative therapists can help you use your creative and artistic expression.

Insurance companies and the medical model of treating patients often rely on diagnoses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). A diagnosis can be beneficial to help you make sense of your struggles as well as give you access to the care that you need to heal. However, the label does not include the large variety and history of one’s life. A narrative therapist believes you are much more than a label and symptoms. Narrative therapy from a systemic lens believes that change in one individual person or area will in turn affect others. This means that relationship issues can benefit from the individual work and couple’s or family work affects individuals.

Sometimes people get into relationships or situations where the messages they received throughout life have written the story for someone else. You have the right to be the author of your own story. A narrative therapist can help to empower you to do just that.

People can get stuck according to scripts on three different levels when presenting for therapy. When the different levels of scripts contradict each other or are no longer helpful given your present situation, life can become overwhelming. A narrative therapist can help you sort through the levels of your narrative, identify contradictions, and help you find solutions for your new story.

An example would be someone struggling on the intra-psychic level as in mental health disorders such as depression. Your psychological symptoms impact relationships with others and how you interpret the larger world around you. Narrative therapy will help you make sense of messages you have received or tell yourself regarding mental health illness that have been a barrier to you living the life you want to live. It is difficult to make positive changes for the future when having dealt with problems and relating with others in the patterns that just are not working anymore. You must first resolve the issues of the past by deconstructing their meaning in more positive ways so you recreate a more cohesive, healthy story for your future.


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