What is Narrative Therapy and why is it important?
Narrative therapy is an approach to counselling that uses narrative or story-telling as a metaphor for understanding how individuals come to experience and understand problems that affect their lives, and as a device or vehicle for developing alternative understandings, experiences and actions.
Problems of life that arise from a variety of causes are understood as being maintained and worsened by ‘problem-saturated self-stories’ (Payne, 2000). When problem saturated self stories become entrenched a young person’s identity may become overwhelmed by negative identity conclusions (e.g. ‘trouble-maker’, ‘weakling’, ‘stupid’ and ‘useless’). In Narrative Therapy the practitioner works collaboratively with the young person or family to challenge these dominant problem-saturated stories and re-author alternative stories that break from the influence of the problems and establish a preferred identity.
The connection between identity and action is prominent in the theoretical rationale for Narrative Therapy. The reasoning goes that when a person has a chance to stand in their preferred identity story, and when that story is experienced as rich and real, they can more easily see what action they wish to take in their life. The main work of narrative practice involves ‘thickening’ preferred stories of identity (Russell & Carey, 2002). Relationship with others adds another critical dimension, because identities are understood as socially constructed in the course of our relationships membering: Responding to commonly asked questions (Russell & Carey, 2002).