THE NARRATIVE THERAPY PROCESS
The narrative process relies on storytelling, personal plot mapping, and sometimes forms of art therapy as powerful tools for understanding root and dominant narratives while accessing new information to re-write our stories so as to support self-improvement.
Here are four common narrative therapy techniques that can help you change your perception of self and see yourself as separate from your problems.
(1) Establishing the Dominant Narrative(s). The client is guided in the telling of their life story to help uncover inherent plots, unconscious motivations, and internal scripts that affect the client’s behavior and self understanding. Understanding the wider context of a problem can help the client understand the root causes of the issue as well as gaining new insights into potential solutions.
Your therapist will help you to understand your story and find your voice. You might be aware of how your story is going, or you may feel clueless as to why certain things have happened to you in your life. The therapist will help a client identify the dominant themes that may be impacting them negatively.
(2) Externalization. You are not your problems. You are a human being who is moving through life, writing your journey as you go. You might struggle with specific issues, but you are not the challenges that you meet. The concept of distancing yourself from the problems you experience is called “externalization.” Externalization helps you view issues from an objective, non-judgmental point of view. Once you create that distance between yourself and your problems, you see that change is possible and that you’re in control and able to heal.
(3) Deconstructing Problematic Dominant Stories. Once the client’s personal stories are understood, they are then deconstructed, an analytic process of locating problems, negative plots and scripts, and tracing the history of various problems. Deconstructing the story and looking at it in smaller parts makes the process far less overwhelming and allows an individual to see that they can impact change in their life. This process allows the client to situate their problem(s) in context and discover unique possible outcomes.
(4) Reauthoring Problematic Dominant Stories and Making Plot Changes. The heart of the narrative therapeutic process involves helping clients retell their personal story, this time changing the plot and scripts for healthier outcomes and solutions. The client is then encouraged to embrace the more positive, alternative narrative and find their place and meaning in the story.
(5) Remembering Conversations. The therapeutic process concludes with the client reinforcing the new narrative using various creative techniques, including story and letter writing, personal rituals and celebrations, drawing, and other forms of artistic expression.
THREE FOUNDATIONS OF NARRATIVE THERAPY
Sometimes people struggle with viewing themselves as “broken” or “messed up.” In Narrative Therapy the therapist will help you detach from negative perceptions of yourself, making it easier to view yourself positively. Everyone goes through hard times, and that doesn’t make you defective – it means you’re human.
When things go wrong, it’s easy to blame others or ourselves. But blame rarely solves anything or help anyone. In narrative therapy, the client doesn’t get blamed for their problems, nor do they place blame on other people. They recognize the stories within their lives and focus on acknowledging their story and working actively to change maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. We look at the issues and start to find alternative ways to handle them.
(3) The Client Is The Expert
A significant aspect of narrative therapy is that the client gets to be an expert. You know the story of your life. You can tell it because you’ve lived it. What a narrative therapist does is help illustrate what could be painful or unhelpful patterns. As the author of your own story, you get to make the final decisions. It’s a collaborative process in which the client gets to know who they are and trust themselves.