What is Narrative Therapy?
Narrative therapy was developed in the 1980s by Australian social worker Michael White and New Zealand family therapist David Epston and popularized in the U.S. in 1990. Narrative therapy is a collaborative and non-pathologizing approach to therapy and community work which centers people as the experts of their own lives. A narrative approach views problems as separate from people and assumes people as having many skills, abilities, values, commitments, beliefs and competencies that will assist them to change their relationship with the problems influencing their lives. It is a way of working that considers the broader context of people’s lives particularly in the various dimensions of diversity including class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability.
Stories Shape Our Perspective
Therapists engaging with narrative ideas and practices work alongside people in resisting the effects and influences of problem stories and deficit descriptions. In therapeutic conversations this involves listening and looking for clues to knowledges and skills that run counter to the problem-saturated story. Often to be discovered are what begin as thin traces to subordinated stories of intentions, hopes, commitments, values, desires and dreams. With curiosity and exploration these preferred stories and accounts of people’s lives can become thickened and richly described.
Change Your Story
Thus, within a narrative framework, people’s lives and identities are seen as multi-storied versus single-storied. Moreover, 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, those interested in narrative practices collaborate with people in ‘re-authoring’ the stories of their lives.