Narrative Therapy

HOW NARRATIVE THERAPY MAY HELP

Change your life by becoming aware of the stories you tell yourself and see yourself in.

The human person relates on a psychological and practical level to stories. We encapsulate our core truths and find our meaning and place in the world with the help of stories and their accompanying scripts. The human person is a story-telling, metaphor-loving, symbol-making being for whom narrative encapsulates information regarding fundamental, existential meaning.

Gaining a deeper, more accurate understanding and awareness of the narratives, stories, and scripts we live by and tell ourselves can help us heal and improve our lives. By focusing on the lived experiences and stories within a person’s life, narrative therapy separates an individual from their problems. It also helps people see that they can at any time re-navigate their story – a person’s story is always evolving and changing and they’re the author of that story.

TALK THERAPY & DEPTH PSYCHOLOGY

Narrative Therapy is a form of talk-therapy, philosophical analysis, and depth psychology. It shares common roots with Jungian Analysis, the person-centered therapy of Carl Rogers, and the Logotherapy of Victor Frankl. Like these, and other forms of talk-therapy, Narrative Therapy explores our thought processes and motives, conscious and unconscious, through psychoanalytic practices.

Narrative Therapy differs from other forms of depth psychology in that it focuses on personal narratives – the stories, scripts, and plots that we guide our life by and find meaning within. These narratives hold powerful influence in our lives, so that stories, scripts, and plots that are negative, unhealthy, self-defeating, limiting, or destructive can prevent us from success, fulfillment, wholeness and healing.

The work of Narrative Therapy is to increase awareness of our personal stories, examine them, and then rewrite them toward healthier, more positive plots and outcomes.

Anyone can benefit from Narrative Therapy – those facing ongoing and repeated challenges and problems, and even those who simply feel they aren’t living up to their potential. You need not be dealing with mental health issues to find useful insights and make positive, lasting changes.

The Narrative therapeutic process often complements cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). In this way, Narrative Therapy may be a beneficial, supplemental approach for these behavior-based treatments.

WHAT IS PHILOSOPHICAL THERAPY?

Narrative Therapy is a form of philosophical therapy or clinical philosophy, a contemporary movement in practical philosophy.

Philosophical therapy is a collaborative and conversational activity between a trained philosopher therapist and a client in which their life-problems are worked through by identifying, examining, and revising as necessary the operating beliefs, values, stories, and habits of action that inform those problems.

A philosophical therapist approaches their client as a fully functioning individual with the courage to deal with the perplexities and struggles central to life by activating and cultivating the powers the client already possesses — critical thinking, imagination, empathy, desire, self-discipline, and creativity. 

A philosophical practitioner helps clients to clarify, articulate, explore and comprehend philosophical aspects of their belief systems or world views. Clients may consult philosophical practitioners for help in exploring philosophical problems related to such matters as mid-life crises, career difficulties or changes, stress, negative emotions, relationship struggles, sexual identity, assertiveness, physical illness, death and dying, aging, meaning of life, and morality.

Activities common to philosophical practice include:

  1. the examination of clients’ arguments and justifications
  2. the clarification, analysis, and definition of important terms and concepts
  3. the exposure and examination of underlying assumptions and logical implications
  4. the exposure of conflicts and inconsistencies
  5. the use of philosophical tools to increase self awareness and to overcome problems
  6. the use of philosophical tools to forge better relationships
  7. the use of philosophical tools to achieve well being and wholeness.

PHILOSOPHICAL THERAPY AND MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING

A philosophical therapist does not diagnose or treat emotional or behavioral disorders, and if problems arise of a medical or mental health nature, the philosophical therapist will help the client seek an appropriate health care professional. 

Psychologists are social scientists and are, therefore, interested in causal explanations. As such, psychological counseling tends to view mental processes in causal terms. Clinical psychologists (and other licensed mental health practitioners) use this body of knowledge and theories about the underlying causes of mental processes to help their clients manage their psychological problems (mood disorders, anxiety, psychoses, etc.).

In contrast, philosophical therapy applies training in philosophy (theories and philosophical ways of thinking) to human problems of living. For example, a philosophical therapist may help a person with a relationship problem apply standards of logic and critical thinking to correct fallacious reasoning, cultivate better relationship skills, and reset expectations. As such, the philosophical practitioner specializes in the examination and analysis of argumentspersonal beliefs, and narratives.

Philosophical counseling uses philosophy, its theories and ways of critical thinking, to help people address ordinary problems of living. Often, these problems can be addressed philosophically by helping the client to examine and reassess his or her reasoning about such matters. As such, it takes a humanities perspective, not a social science one.

For more information, visit the National Philosophical Counseling Association.

FURTHER RESOURCES

ONLINE
Narrative Therapy – Wikipedia Overview
What is Narrative Therapy? – Dulwich Centre
An Overview of Narrative Therapy – Good Therapy

BOOKS
What is Narrative Therapy? – Alice Morgan
Narrative Therapy – Stephen Madigan
Solution Focused Narrative Therapy – Linda Metcalf
Maps of Narrative Practice – Michael White
Retelling the Stories of our Lives – David Denborough