What is Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is based on the notion that we generate stories in an effort to make sense of our lives and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Many of the problematic stories that we hold about our lives and ourselves are influenced and shaped by cultural discourses about identity and power in the wider social context in which we live. In this collaborative and non-pathologizing approach to counselling and community work people are centred as experts of their own lives. The narrative therapist joins the person that consults with them in considering the influence of the beliefs in the broader context of their lives in the various dimensions of diversity including class, race, gender, sexual orientation and ability.

A person who comes to therapy often finds that the stories that they tell about their lives have become dominated and saturated by problem descriptions of their lives and identities. The narrative therapist works alongside the person in resisting the effects and influences of problem stories and deficit descriptions. This involves listening for clues to knowledge and skills that run counter to the problem-story. Through rich engagement with and conversations about these more hopeful parts of their lives, new meanings are shaped and new life options become available to people.

Within a narrative framework, people’s lives and identities are seen as multi-storied versus single-storied. The focus is not on ‘experts’ solving problems. It is on people co-discovering through conversations, the hopeful, preferred, and previously unrecognized and hidden possibilities contained within themselves and unseen story-lines. To this end, narrative practitioners collaborate with people in ‘re-authoring’ the stories of their lives.

This therapeutic approach is founded on post-structural ideas and was first developed by Michael White (photo on left) and David Epston (photo on right).