Michael White and David Epston (1990) are best known for their use of narrative in therapy, of all the social constructionists. As per White (1992), individuals makes up the meaning of life in interpretive stories, that is then treated as “truth.” For the power of dominant culture narratives, individuals seek to internalize the messages from these dominant discourses, which often act against the life opportunity of the individual.
What to expect?
A general objective of narrative therapy is to invite people to narrate their experience in new and fresh language. In the process, they open up new visionary of what is possible. This new language allows clients to develop new meanings for problematic thoughts, feelings, as well as behaviors. Narrative therapy generally includes an awareness of the impact of different aspects of dominant culture on human life. Narrative practitioners tries to enlarge the perspective and facilitate the creation of new alternatives that are unique to the people they see.
How does it work?
The Therapeutic Process
This brief description of the steps in the narrative therapeutic process illustrates the structure of the narrative approach:
• The client is provided with collaboration to come up with a mutually acceptable name for the problem.
• Personification of the problem and attribute the oppressive intentions and tactics to it is done.
• Investigation about how the problem has been disrupting, dominating, or discouraging to the client is conducted.
• The client is invited to see his or her story from a different perspective and alternative meaning is offered for events.
• Moments are discovered when the client wasn’t dominated or discouraged by the problem through search for exceptions to the problem.
• Historical evidence is sort to bolster a new view of the client as competent enough to have stood up to, defeated, or escaped from the dominance or oppression of the problem. (This is the phase the person’s identity and life story starts to get rewritten.)
• The client is asked to speculate about what kind of future could be expected from the strong, competent person who is emerging. Soon the client becomes free of problem-saturated stories of the past, and envisions and plans for a less problematic future.
• An audience is created for perceiving and supporting the new story. It is not enough to only recite a new story. The client must live the new story outside of therapy. Because the person’s problem has initially developed in a social context, it is thus essential to involve the social environment in supporting the new life story.
When is it used?
Resorting to a postmodern, narrative, social constructionist view puts light on how power, knowledge, and “truth” are compromised in families and other social and cultural contexts. Therapy is, in this aspect is a reestablishment of personal agency against the oppression of external problems and the dominant stories of larger systems.
Role of the therapist:
Narrative therapists acts as active facilitators. The concepts of care, respectful curiosity, interest, openness, contact, empathy, and even fascination are viewed as a relational necessity. The novice position, allows therapists to follow, affirm, and be escorted by the stories of their clients, creates participant-observer and process-facilitator roles for the therapist and binds therapy with a postmodern view of human inquiry.
A major task of the therapist is to help clients reconstruct a preferred story line. The narrative therapist adopts a stance that is characterized by respectful curiosity and works with the client to explore the impact of the problem and their action plan to reduce the effects of the problem.