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Flashcards in Narrative Therapy Deck (12)
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What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a form of therapy that aims to separate the individual from the problem, allowing the individual to externalize their issues rather than internalize them. It relies on the individual’s own skills and sense of purpose to guide them through difficult times (“Narrative Therapy”, 2017).


Narrative therapy is respectful. meaning that....

This therapy respects the agency and dignity of every client. It requires each client to be treated as an individual who is not deficient, not defective, or not “enough” in any way. Individuals who engage in narrative therapy are brave people who recognize that there are issues they would like to address in their lives, which leads to the second main idea


Narrative therapy is non-blaming. meaning

In this form of therapy, clients are never blamed for their problems, and they are encouraged not to blame anyone else as well. Problems emerge in everyone’s lives due to a variety of factors, and in narrative therapy, there is no point in assigning blame to anyone or anything. Narrative therapy separates people from their problems, viewing them as whole and functional individuals who engage in thought patterns or behavior that they would like to change.


Narrative therapy views the client as the expert. meaning

Finally, in narrative therapy, the therapist does not occupy a higher social or academic space than the client. In these therapeutic relationships, it is understood that the client is the expert in his or her own life, and both parties are expected to go forth with this understanding. Only the client knows their own life intimately, and only the client has the skills and knowledge necessary to change their behavior and address their issues (Morgan, 2000).


Main themes or principles of narrative therapy:

Reality is socially constructed, which means that our interactions and dialogue with others impacts the way we experience reality.
Reality is influenced by and communicated through language, which suggests that people who speak different languages may have radically different interpretations of the same experiences.
Having a narrative that can be understood helps us to organize and maintain our reality. In other words, stories and narratives help us to make sense of our experiences.
There is no “objective reality” or absolute truth, meaning that what is true for us may not be the same for another person, or even for ourselves at another point in time (Standish, 2013).


These principles tie into the postmodernist school of thought, which views reality as

a shifting, changing, and deeply personal concept. In postmodernism, there is no objective truth – the truth is what each one of us makes it, influenced by social norms and ideas.

This idea that we make our own truth and tell our own stories to make sense of the world is an excellent fit for narrative therapy. The main premise behind this therapy is that an individual is separate from their problems, and this distance is believed to allow individuals to apply the skills learned in narrative therapy to solve them.

It’s amazing how much easier it can seem to solve or negate a problem when you don’t see the problem as an integral part of who you are.


5 Commonly Used Narrative Therapy Techniques

Telling One’s Story (Putting Together a Narrative)
Externalization Technique
Deconstruction Technique
Unique Outcomes Technique


Telling One’s Story Counsellor must

your job in narrative therapy is to help your client find their voice and tell their story in their own words.


The externalization technique involves

leading your client toward viewing their problems or behaviors as external, instead of a part of him or her. This is a technique that is much easier to describe than to fully embrace, but it can have huge positive impacts on self-identity and confidence.
The general idea of this technique is that it is much easier to change a behavior that you engage in than it is to change a characteristic that is a part of you. For example, if you are quick to anger and you consider yourself an angry person, you must fundamentally change something about yourself to address the problem; however, if you are a person who acts aggressively and becomes angry easily, you simply need to alter the behaviors to address the problem.


Deconstruction Technique

refers to breaking down the problem or problems the client is having, making it more easy to understand and address. Our problems can often feel overwhelming, confusing, or unsolvable, but they are never truly unsolvable (Bishop, 2011).
Deconstructing the issue makes it more specific and avoids overgeneralizing, as well as clarifying what the core issue or issues actually are.


Unique Outcomes Technique

The unique outcomes technique involves changing one’s own storyline. In narrative therapy, the client aims to construct a storyline to their experiences which provides meaning and gives them a positive, functional identity. We are not limited to just one storyline, though. There are many potential storylines we can subscribe to, some more negative and others more positive.



It’s true that, in general, existentialists believe the world holds no inherent meaning, but they do not take this belief as a license to fall into a deep pit of depression and meaninglessness; rather, they believe we can create our own meaning.

In this way, existentialism and narrative therapy go hand in hand. Narrative therapy encourages individuals to make their own meaning and find their own purpose rather than search for some pre-existing, absolute truth.