Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy basing its effectiveness and practical manifestation on narrative. This form of psychotherapy was developed in 1970s, perfected in 1980s, becoming widely known 10 years later, through a book by David Epston and Michael White, “Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends.
This therapy mainly consists of different forms of conversations and discourses used to stimulate recovery of the patients, being specially designed for treating specific disorders including ADHD, schizophrenia, anorexia etc.
Narrative Therapy – Form of Psychotherapy
Even though there are great similarities between narrative therapy and narrative psychology, the two are not the same.
In narrative therapy, the therapist stimulates the patient to use different forms of discourse development, creating richer narratives. During this creation, the therapist motivates the patient to add details which are essential for the solution of psychological or behavioral problems, leading these into the main plot.
The main slogan which guides this form of therapy is “the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem”. Thus, through narrative therapy, people manage to look more directly into the problems they are facing, without being self-judgmental or focused on self-criticism. Moreover, they have freedom of making their own meaning related to the narrative, through collaborating with the therapist.
The narrative therapy is best to be practiced among smaller circles of people such as a family or a group of friends. However, some materials written on this topic have encompassed larger groups of individuals too, spreading onto schools, work and higher educations.
Letters, documents and various other means of correspondence may be incorporated into narrative therapy, making it more versatile and thereby more effective.
Concepts of Narrative Therapy
Common elements which are usually found as constituents of narrative therapy encompass the assumption that all the narratives used represent some forms of the patient’s identity. Thus, the problem one is facing in his/her life is represented as a dominant story, surrounded by various other marginalized forms of discourse, being subordinated to it.
Secondly, this therapy praises and appreciates the use of documents and written confirmations of one’s advancement. So, certificates and similar items may be incorporated in the therapy.
Stating a problem is common for the narrative therapy, even though this problem is lead in the story through externalization, allowing the patient to determine its importance.
During the narrative therapy, possible outcomes of the process of dealing with the problem are presented and speculated upon.
Finally, responding to personal failure communications is also a part of this therapy.
All in all, narrative therapy allows people to look at the problems in their life from a different angle, analyze it, assess it and try to find the best way of dealing with it. The therapist is not in the center of the plot of the narrative. Namely, he merely guides the process of the narrative, helping the patient greatly without limiting his/her freedom. Thus, the therapist in a narrative of this type is more of an investigative reporter, an outsider witness or a person having a different conversation role. Sometimes, other people are invited to bear witness to the narrative, usually being friends of the patient or closely related to him/her. Their feedback is taken into consideration later, adding a whole new perspective to the effectiveness of the narrative therapy and the narrative itself.
Criticisms of Narrative Therapy
This form of therapy, being innovative and creative as it is, has commonly been a target of many forms of criticism. Many times, it has been labeled as being methodologically and theoretically inconsistent, narrowing the truth behind the narrative, sanctioning the actual productiveness.
Lack of supportive clinical studies and researches also stand against the narrative therapy. So, more researches are needed in order to prove narrative therapy worthy of helping people who suffer from behavior and psychological problems.
Either way, regardless of the criticisms, narrative therapy focuses on avoiding blaming the human factor for the human problems. So, the main power of it lies in its capability to externalize the problems, moving them away from actual people. Therefore, one is allowed to analyze his/her life without feeling inhibition or exposure of any sorts. Rather, the problem itself undergoes scrutiny and assessment, allowing the patient to feel safe and protected, participating more wholeheartedly into the formation of the narrative.
Our emotions and thoughts are often too complex for us to fully grasp them. However, through narrative therapy this becomes more possible since we live our stories and pay more attentions to them, leading in new side-stories and various other innovations to the plot.
All in all, narrative therapy holds great promise due to its innovative viewpoints and usage of psychology and psychotherapy. Here, the patients are allowed to feel free of blaming themselves. Rather, they focus on blaming the problems which are bothering them, moving the away from their own existence and dealing with them from the safe distance of a narrative. Without the burdens of blaming, it is much easier to fix various problems in your life.