Hearing the client’s story involves listening to the person’s own words, values and meanings in order to genuinely understand the clients’ point of view about his issues or concerns.
Narrative Therapists talk about a therapeutic ‘stance’ or ‘position’ called ‘de-centred’ as opposed to ‘centred’. Being ‘de-centred’ refers to the ability of the therapist to prioritise the personal stories, meanings and understandings of the person as opposed to being ‘centred’ in his/her own concerns, or attempting to be the ‘expert’ (Morgan, 2002).
Hearing the client’s story is particularly emphasised in Narrative Therapy approaches to working with people who have experienced trauma (White, 2004). In addition to listening to the effects of trauma on people’s lives, Michael White stressed the importance of listening for all the things that the person has held on to and given value to throughout their experiences. This includes anything precious and important to the person such as core values and other beliefs, activities, rituals and ways of living their life. It can also include ways in which the person has responded to the trauma and the steps they have taken to protect and preserve what they value (White, 2004).
Michael White coined the term ‘double listening’ to refer to this listening to both the effects of the trauma and the responses of the person to it (White, 2004).
White argues that these details of what the person holds on to throughout trauma and their responses to it are often considered insignificant and are overlooked and that this contributes to a sense of personal desolation and shame. In contrast when these values and responses are honoured and become richly known this provides a foundation for re-authoring a sense of self (White, 2004).
The modalities of outreach and residential programs provide opportunities for highly enriched hearing of the client’s story. During the course of spending time doing a range of activities together, conversations between workers and young people tend to be natural, expressive and free flowing (Bruun & Hynan, 2006; Bruun & Mitchell, 2012).
Avoid letting your own values affect the interpretation of the client’s story.
Avoid ‘translating’ the client’s meanings into other languages such as that of psychology or psychiatry.