Narrative therapy is based on the idea that many of the things we think of as hard truths are in fact cultural constructs or stories. These stories can be examined and placed in time or space. Once they are named they can be moved out of people’s lives through retelling, tearing apart and a careful lifting or thickening of the other aspects of a person’s life. It is not necessary that the person going to a narrative therapist understand how to practice or live out these ideas. The conversations someone has with a narrative therapist feel (hopefully) like a conversation between two friends.
Many people who seek out the assistance of the narrative therapist have reported that their experience is very different than with other forms of therapy. Modern therapy is based in psychotherapy. Narrative therapy is based in literary theory and in anthropology. Narrative therapists are profoundly reluctant to contribute to the labeling of people in any way shape or form. This can include a reluctance to diagnose people unless absolutely necessary.
Narrative therapy is a form of helping people in therapy. Narrative therapy had been in existence since the late 1980’s and is a recognized form of practice by the American Psychiatric Association. Narrative therapy uses the assumptions of life and the way people make meaning in their life experiences as the basis for the conversations that happen during a session. If behavioral therapy uses behavior as it’s basic unit of measurement and cognitive therapy uses thought as its basic unit of measurement; then narrative therapy uses the assumptions of life or the stories that people are living out in their lives as it’s basic unit of measurement.
If you are someone who is spent a great deal of time in therapy and still wants help, you might consider working with a narrative therapist because the way they practice is so different in the assumptions of life, attitude, and practices. Narrative therapy works with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of circumstances because stories are an essential part of human life. Stories are the things we share, what we live out and how we feel included in others lives.
As a narrative therapist, I am intensely focused on the dreams and the futures of the people that come to see me. I am willing and able to examine and talk about the problems that drive them into seeking therapy. I am able to take the time to know the most wonderful parts of their lives. I hold open the door to the possibility that some of the most terrible moments of their life may actually reflect well on them. I seek not to be a source of hope. Instead, I ask the people who come to see me to notice how hope lives within them.
Narrative practices ask us to examine the meaning that we make from the events that shape our lives. Through this examination of the things that we think of as unmovable objects–alcoholism, Bulimia, temper tantrums, anxiety, etc., These problems become smaller – they don’t disappear altogether – they are just placed in their proper perspective of a complex life. Narrative therapy seeks to use the slipperiness of language in the service of people whose problems may feel insurmountable.
I have found that narrative therapy works with people as young as age 3 and as old as 85. The only limitation I have found is a willingness to talk and an ability to remember the conversation.
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