What is Narrative Therapy

Michael White               David Epston

Narrative therapy is based on the notion that we generate stories in an effort to make sense of our lives and the circumstances which we find ourselves in. 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 and David Epston family therapists from Adelaide, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand respectively. They started developing these ideas in the 1980’s.

Narrative Therapy Books, Journals and other resources


General overview of Narrative Therapy

Maps of Narrative Practice by Michael White (2007)

Narrative Therapy (second edition) by Stephen Madigan (2019)

Working with Children

Playful Approaches to Serious Problems – Narrative Therapy with Children and their families by Jennifer Freeman, David Epston & Dean Lobovits (1997)

Narrative Therapy in Wonderland – Connecting with children’s imaginative know-how by David Marsten, David Epston & Laurie Markham (2016)

Grief and Bereavement

Bereavement Support Groups-breathing life into Stories of the Dead by Lorriane Hedtke (2012)

The Crafting of Grief – Constructing Aesthetic Responses to Loss by Lorraine Hedtke & John Winslade (2017)

Neuro-Narrative Therapy

Neuro-Narrative Therapy – New Possibilities for Emotion-filled Conversations by Jeffrey Zimmerman (2018)

Queer Theory and Narrative Therapy

Queering Your Therapy Practice – Queer Theory, Narrative Therapy, and Imagining New Identities by Julie Tilsen (2021)

Books by Johnella Bird

The Heart’s Narrative – Therapy and navigating life’s contradictions (2000)

Talk that Sings – Therapy in a new linguistic key (2004)

Constructing the Narrative in Super-vision (2006)

Working with Men who have Abused  

Invitation to Responsibility – The therapeutic engagement of men who are violent and abusive by Alan Jenkins (1990)

Becoming Ethical – A parallel, political journey with men who have abused by Alan Jenkins (2009)


Biting the Hand that Starves you – Inspiring resistance to Anorexia/Bulimia by Richard Maisel, David Epston & Ali Borden (2004)

Websites and Journals

Dulwich Centre, Adelaide, Australia

Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

For more information https://dulwichcentre.com.au/

David Epston, Auckland, NZ

Journal of Contemporary Narrative Therapy (JCNT)  Editors: David Epston, Tom Stone Carlson, Sanni Paljakka, marcela Polanco


David Epston and colleagues  


David Epston, Dean Lobovits and Jennifer Freeman


Johnella Bird, Auckland, NZ


Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy (VSNT) – Stephen Madigan and Faculty


VSNT-Live is an interactive learning platform for Narrative Practitioners


Evanston Family Therapy Centre – Jill Freedman and Gene Combs


UK based network of Narrative practitioners – The Institute of Narrative Therapy


Lorraine Hedtke


Boston, USA – Stephen Gaddis


The Narrative Therapy Centre of Toronto (NTC)


Institute for Creative Conversations – Benoni South Africa


Therese Hulme and Linda van Duuren, Cape Town South Africa