What are the techniques used in Narrative therapy?

As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

This blog post will explore what techniques are used in Narrative therapy.

We will also explore the stages of narrative therapy, the stages of the therapeutic process, and the efficacy of this school of psychotherapy.

What are the techniques used in Narrative therapy?

The various techniques used in narrative therapy include:

Questions

Most of the techniques that are used in narrative therapy are explored and established through questions in the dialogue between client and therapist.

The question is to generate the story and the experience rather than to gather information so as to determine what direction to take the process and what elements to work on. 

These questions are asked respectfully, with curiosity, and openness with the intent to understand and not with the intention to verify what they already know. 

Through the technique of questioning, it allows individuals to explore various dimensions of their lives related to their problem and also help clients develop an awareness of these dimensions. 

Putting together a story

This particular technique involves viewing the life experiences of the client as their story told in their own words based on how they experienced it and what meaning they made out of these experiences. 

In this technique, there is no right or wrong, and there is no blaming of neither the client nor the other players in the narrative. 

What occurs in this technique is to explore the story, construct a story that is relatively unhelpful then the therapist and the client tries to alter the existing story by finding or creative new helpful meanings, 

This technique is often called re-storying or re-authoring and it pushes the idea that one experience can have many meanings and what the therapeutic process must do is to help clients see an alternative more helpful story. 

Externalisation

This particular technique is to help the client remove themselves from the problem and tackle the problem from an objective standpoint while also removing all blame and shame. 

The goal is to change the view or perspective of the client from “I am the problem” to “I have a problem” and thus, reduce the overpowering role of the problem in their lives. 

For example, a person might come to struggle with being unable to speak in front of an audience and might feel like they are incapable of dealing with this issue. 

They might see themselves incapable and might conclude that because they are incapable, they are unable to be a leader or a speaker. 

BY externalising the problem, the client will understand that the issue is that they have anxiety when speaking in front of a crowd and this issue has nothing to do with their value or worth. Rather it is a problem that they struggle with and can be worked on. 

This helps the clients see the problem as something that needs to be solved rather than the problem defining who they are or an integrable part of their person. 

By going this, the client can become empowered to tackle the problem by building on various skills and thus assert control. 

Deconstruction

This technique involves removing all the additional problems that are surrounding the problem and instead getting to the core of the problem. 

This particular technique involves mapping the problem by helping clients understand how the problem affects them and how they in turn affect the problem.

By mapping the problem, it not only externalises the problem further but also allows the individual to explore the extent of the problem in their lives. 

It involves exploring the generalised view the client has on the problem and focusing on what it is that they are struggling with. 

For example, the individual says “I am unhappy with my job” and the technique will be used to work with the client on understanding what aspects of their job they do not like or are unhappy with. 

They might be unhappy with the team environment, or their salary rates, or their manager’s relationship with them etc which becomes smaller issues with more actionable steps to help tackle this issue.

So deconstructing will explore how their work life has impacted them, in what ways, and what factors come into play. By doing this, the actual factors and causes are revealed. 

It involves making the story more specific rather than a general, over-powering problem, and instead helps the client and the therapist view the problem as what it really is. 

When the client is able to see what the problem is, the therapist and the client can start to build skills necessary to confront the problem or take actionable steps to resolve smaller challenges around the main issue. 

Unique Outcomes

This particular technique involves shifting perspectives from a challenged and negative perspective and instead taking into consideration a newer and more positive point of view. 

It involves exploring the instances when the individual was able to dominate over the problem with their own abilities and skills and explore the instances where they experience success over the problem. 

For example, an individual might be struggling with anger issues but instead of focusing on the issue and the times where things went wrong, there is focus on the times when the individual was able to deal with anger. 

The technique believes that by doing so, by changing the perspective it allows one to minimise the problem and instead focus on possibilities. 

Exploring these unique outcomes helps clients see that change is possible, that change has already happened in some situations, and all the need to do is to bump up these skills that are already present and apply them more. 

This helps to empower the client by helping them understand that they are powerful over the problem and not the other way around.

This means that it allows clients to focus on the unique outcomes of their life, positive aspects of their life instead of focusing on what went wrong. 

For example, an individual might consider their loss during the pandemic as a loss but this particular technique challenges them to view this life changing experience as an opportunity to spend time with their family and seek out other opportunities.

This technique helps people to view the positives of their life experience not just in the past but also help maintain optimism related to “what have i gained” or “what possibilities do i have” for future expenses.

Existentialism

This particular technique of existentialism or existential philosophy is the overarching baseline that constructs the entire process of therapy. 

Narrative therapy emplos the questions and skills surrounding existentialism to encourage individuals to make their own meaning rather than stick to absolute truths based on their negative experiences. 

It encourages people to be authentic in their life narratives and apply their own meaning based on their own values and attitudes to create positive meanings that are unique to them as opposed to sticking to or searching for absolute truths.

Documenting the evidence

This technique involves active participation of the therapist to write letters of the clients progress and achievements to the clnet 

These letters also detail the story they initially entered the therapeutic junrey with and the story they emerged as well as the entire process during the re-authoring of their own stories. 

The letter also accounts the strengths of the clients, their abilities which were identified and these letters are shared to the client for the client to revisit when needed to reinspire and encourage themselves. 

What is Narrative therapy?

Narrative therapy is a form of therapy that was developed by Michael White and David Epston in the 1980s.

This form of therapy seeks to understand the personal narratives that are held by an individual which proves to be problematic. 

The process of therapy starts by externalising the problem, separating the individual from the problem and then redeveloping an alternate more optimistic and hopeful narrative about themselves and their lives. 

This form of therapy highlights an individual’s own skills and sense of purpose to guide them through challenges and believes that each client is an individual who has agency and dignity. 


They view people who come to narrative therapy as people who are courageous and brave in their ability to identify their own challenges and work through it. 

It is a non-blaming form of therapy that does not view clients as the problem, and avoids blame on any of the individuals in therapy. 

The goal of narrative therapy is to help people experience their lives in new perspectives so that it opens the clients up to new possibilities and helps create new meaning. 

Narrative therapy views the client as the expert of their lives and believes that only the client  knows their one life intimately and has the skills and knowledge to address their problems. 

The foundation of this therapeutic process is the process by which they invite clients to take a perspective that may feel foreign and new to them and bring about a seperation between people and their problems. 

Conclusion

This blog post has explored what techniques are used in Narrative therapy.

We have also explored the stages of narrative therapy, the stages of the therapeutic process, and the efficacy of this school of psychotherapy.

FAQ related to Narrative therapy Techniques

Is narrative therapy a CBT?

No, Narrative therapy and CBT are two different forms of psychotherapy and neither are a result of the other.

What is mapping in narrative therapy?

Mapping is the process in which the client and the therapist tries to understand the influence or effect the problem has on their life as well as the effect they have on the problem so as to understand a more clear perspective of the problem. 

Who was Michael White narrative therapy?

Michael White was an Australian social worker and family therapist who is knowed as the development and founder of narrative therapy. 

What are externalising questions?

Some externalising questions include:

  • What effect does the problem have on your life?
  • How does the problem impact your energy for daily tasks?
  • Does the problem have an impact on your relationship with other family members?

References

Ackerman. C. 19 Narrative Therapy Techniques, Interventions + Worksheets [PDF]. PostivePsychlogy.  Retrieved on 21st January 2022. https://positivepsychology.com/narrative-therapy/

Beaudoin M, Moersch M, Evare BS. The effectiveness of narrative therapy with children’s social and emotional skill development: An empirical study of 813 problem-solving stories. Journal of Systemic Therapies. 2016;(35)3: 42-59. doi:10.1521/jsyt.2016.35.3.42

Clarke, J. What is Narrative Therapy. Verywell well.  Retrieved on 21st January 2022. https://www.verywellmind.com/narrative-therapy-4172956#effectiveness

Shakeri J, Ahmadi SM, Maleki F, Hesami MR, Parsa Moghadam A, Ahmadzadeh A, Shirzadi M, Elahi A. Effectiveness of group narrative therapy on depression, quality of life, and anxiety in people with amphetamine addiction: A randomised clinical trial. Iran J Med Sci. 2020;45(2):91-99. doi:10.30476/IJMS.2019.45829

Shapiro, Johanna & Ross, Valerie. (2002). Applications of narrative theory and therapy to the practice of family medicine. Family medicine. 34. 96-100.

What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.