Your life is a narrative, counted and recounted from many different perspectives, and by diverse people. There are settings, themes, characters and plots — just like in any movie, book, historical account or legendary fable. In this article we review the approach of Narrative Therapy and how it can be effectively used by counsellors to assist individuals improve their lives. The Narrative Therapy is an approach to counselling that centres people as the experts in their own lives.

This therapeutic approach intends to place the individual in both the protagonist and author roles: switching the view from a narrow perspective to a systemic and more flexible stance.

Systemic and flexible stance? In many events of our lives, we tend to focus on particular things and ignore others. Analysing our lives as a play, or a system, helps us understand the different forces and roles that are influencing our behaviour. This in turn gives us flexibility to invoke the necessary changes for improvement. We create narrative descriptions for ourselves and for others about our own past actions, and we develop storied accounts that give sense to the behavior of others.

On the receiving end, we are constantly confronted with stories during our conversations and encounters with the written and visual media. We are told fairy tales as children, and read and discuss stories at school. The emotional, cognitive and spiritual perspectives of a person are usually combined in order to derive meaning to an event.

As an example, we can compare the perspective of two people who have different levels of emotional intelligence. The intellect is based solely 2002 ford f 250 keeps blowing fuses when put in the workings of the neocortex, the more recently evolved layers at the top of the brain.

The emotional centers are lower in the brain, in the more ancient subcortex. This is only an example of possible disparities in perception and decision-making. It is the protagonist responding to the setting, the characters, the theme and plot. They may examine the story and look for other ways to tell it differently or to understand it in other ways. In doing so, they find it helpful to put the problem outside of the individual, thus externalizing it.The events we experience in life make up our personal stories or narratives.

While most people have life stories that are mainly positive, some people define themselves primarily by the painful events they experienced in the past. Narrative therapy helps individuals who have a negative sense of self to identify their strengths, rewrite their story, and approach life with greater confidence.

What Is Narrative Therapy & The Benefits

Narrative therapy is a collaborative counseling method that separates people from their problems. The approach views clients as the experts in their own lives and helps them to see how their skills can reduce the negative issues they face.

As the narrators of their own story, people in therapy are able to rewrite problem-saturated narratives so that they focus on the positive beliefs, values, and skills they possess. Many people who seek therapy think of themselves as inferior, damaged, or less than others. By making the client the expert, narrative therapy empowers individuals who are seeking treatment. Narrative therapy helps people to analyze their problems objectively.

As these problems are separated from their personal identity, individuals in treatment are able to reconstruct their personal narrative and develop a more positive perspective on life. Narrative therapists guide the rewriting process in a manner that is respectful and non-judgemental. A narrative is a group of events over time that revolves around a specific theme or plot.

Each person has his or her own story. For some people, that personal story is mostly positive. For others, the story is overwhelmingly negative.

limitations of narrative therapy

Individuals who define themselves by their struggles tend to place more emphasis on negative events that support their problem-saturated narrative. As a result, these individuals may construct their identity based on the problems they are facing or the negative emotions they are feeling.

For example, someone with anxiety may describe himself as anxious. As other negative events continue to be emphasized and added to that story, he may eventually think of himself as an anxious person who is incapable of dealing with any major challenges in life.

Narrative therapy was created to be an empowering, collaborative and non-blaming approach to psychotherapy. Practitioners of narrative therapy see people in treatment as capable individuals who can bring about change in their own lives. This approach makes the process of problem-solving much more productive.

Proponents of narrative therapy believe the importance a person places on specific past experiences has a powerful effect on his or her sense of self. As a result, individuals who focus on negative events or personal failures tend to have lower self-esteem, lower self-confidence, and lower self-worth than their peers. Narrative therapists assume each person has inherent strengths to resolve the adverse issues they may face in life.

They also posit that individuals may develop a more positive self-concept by becoming more aware of their talents and skills. When an individual is separated from his problem, he may be helped to see how it benefits him rather than how it hurts him. Once the problem has been externalized, the individual is more likely to develop self-compassion. This will help him to be less critical of himself, recognize that imperfection is common to everyone, and develop an unbiased view of his experiences.

Narrative Therapy Role-Play - Externalizing the Problem - Excessive Worry

Narrative therapy empowers people to view themselves from a perspective that is not problem-centered. As more positive alternative stories are developed, explored and accepted, the way the client identifies himself may be adjusted. Narrative therapy is usually offered in weekly sessions. As the expert, the client leads the therapeutic discussion. The therapist guides the dialogue toward meaningful narratives by asking the client what he wishes to speak about. As therapy progresses, the therapist will encourage the client to explore alternative explanations or unique outcomes in his story.Narratives, or stories, are central to who we are as human beings, and for centuries, storytelling has been an important way of communicating knowledge and fostering connections between people.

Since the days of our early ancestors, for example, people have gathered around campfires and painted on walls to communicate their stories. Furthermore, the teachings of most religious texts are presented as stories, most cultures have their own folktales and legends, and many of us were told stories that put us to sleep as children.

But what does this have to do with mental health? This approach also teaches us to identify underlying skills and positive attributes that can help us to improve our life circumstances.

A narrative can be defined as an account of how a series of events are connected to one another. In other words, a narrative is a story. Our identities are based on the cumulative experiences that we have had; and we instinctively use narratives to make sense of these events, tying them together in the form of coherent stories. Our identities are complex and multi-faceted, and we use many different narratives to describe various aspects of ourselves. These stories often have a specific theme and they may thus describe, for example, our experiences, skills, attributes, deficits, dreams, interests or relationships.

Narrative therapy is based on the principles of postmodernism. This theory says, firstly, that there is no objective reality or absolute truth; and that instead, we all construct or create our own truths. Postmodernism also tells us that language influences reality — in other words, the stories that we tell about ourselves and the world influences that reality and our experience of it. Finally, postmodernism tells us that our identities are not singular but multiple — the implication here is that we are able to change our identity through the different narratives that we construct.

Your therapist will guide you to understand narrative theory as it applies to your own situation in a straightforward manner, without making things unnecessarily complicated. From the perspective of narrative therapy, the mind works by creating stories which help us understand the world.

This is a good thing, as narratives give us a sense of identity and meaning. However, our stories do not simply reflect our experiences: they also inform and construct who we are as people. In other words, the stories we hold about ourselves influence the way that we think, feel and behave.

This idea is liberating because it implies that by changing our stories we can also change ourselves and our experiences. However, at times, the stories that we tell about ourselves may become saturated with problems. Your story may, for example, repeatedly and consistently describe you as a failure. As you focus on this story, you start selecting and prioritizing events and experiences in your life that support and strengthen the narrative that frames you in this negative light.

Narrative therapy works by empowering you to focus on and create different, more helpful stories about yourself.

It creates in you an awareness of how you might be prioritizing certain narratives over others; and it gives you the knowledge and tools to re-author your own identity and future. It also helps to shed light on those positive capacities and attributes in yourself that you might have been neglecting in favor of other, more damning narratives.

Narrative therapy also works by objectifying your problem. What does this mean?Narrative therapy seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counselling and community work, which centres people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives.

An easy-to-read introduction.

Disadvantages Of Narrative Therapy (Essay Sample)

They might also be speaking about particular ways of talking with people about their lives and problems they may be experiencing, or particular ways of understanding therapeutic relationships and the ethics or politics of therapy.

There are various principles which inform narrative ways of working, but in my opinion, two are particularly significant: always maintaining a stance of curiosity, and always asking questions to which you genuinely do not know the answers.

I invite you to read this book with these two principles in mind. They inform the ideas, the stance, the tone, the values, the commitments and the beliefs of narrative therapy. When I meet with the people consulting me, I sometimes think of the possibilities for the directions of the conversation as if they are roads on a journey.

There are many cross-roads, intersections, paths and tracks to choose from. With every step, a new and different cross road or intersection emerges — forwards, back, right, left, diagonal, in differing degrees. With each step that I take with the person consulting me, we are opening more possible directions. We can choose where to go and what to leave behind. We can always take a different path, retrace our steps, go back, repeat a track, or stay on the same road for some time.

At the beginning of the journey we are not sure where it will end, nor what will be discovered. The possibilities described in this book are like the roads, tracks and paths of the journey. Each question a narrative therapist asks is a step in a journey. All the paths may be taken, some of the paths, or one can travel along one path for a time before changing to another.

Importantly, the person consulting the therapist plays a significant part in mapping the direction of the journey.

Narrative conversations are interactive and always in collaboration with the people consulting the therapist. The therapist seeks to understand what is of interest to the people consulting them and how the journey is suiting their preferences.

You will often hear, for example, a narrative therapist asking:. In this way, narrative conversations are guided and directed by the interests of those who are consulting the therapist. As these descriptions suggest, stories are central to an understanding of narrative ways of working. For narrative therapists, stories consist of:. As humans, we are interpreting beings. We all have daily experiences of events that we seek to make meaningful.

limitations of narrative therapy

The stories we have about our lives are created through linking certain events together in a particular sequence across a time period, and finding a way of explaining or making sense of them. This meaning forms the plot of the story.

We give meanings to our experiences constantly as we live our lives. A narrative is like a thread that weaves the events together, forming a story. We all have many stories about our lives and relationships, occurring simultaneously.

For example, we have stories about ourselves, our abilities, our struggles, our competencies, our actions, our desires, our relationships, our work, our interests, our conquests, our achievements, our failures.Eleven patients 1 male, 10 female without previous stabilization periods or the absence of intentional self-injury received NET during a ten-week inpatient program. Patients were assessed again at post-treatment and a month follow-up. Drop-out rates during treatment were low, with Furthermore, acceptance of NET was high, with only one patient rejecting treatment.

The program was safe because it did not lead to aggravations in symptom severity at either the post-treatment or month follow-up. Additionally, the rate of self-harming behaviors throughout the treatment phase was low In fact, treatment was associated with positive effects on PTSD and BPD symptom severity as well as secondary outcome measures, including depression, dissociation and quality of life.

There is also evidence for the potential effectiveness of NET in this highly burdened population. Registered 6 January BPD is characterized by a high burden of psychiatric symptoms and behavioral abnormalities such as recurrent threats or acts of self-harm, chronic feelings of emptiness or impulsive behavior.

Between Cross-sectional studies show that comorbid PTSD increases the already high symptom load that is associated with BPD and causes aggravated emotion dysregulation and more prevalent suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury NSSI; [ 35 ]. PTSD symptoms, such as flashbacks, may lead to intense emotional pressure that may result in self-harm in patients with BPD [ 6 ] and decrease the probability of remission from BPD symptoms [ 4 ].

Traumatic events that can cause PTSD such as adverse childhood experiences are regarded to cause BPD in interaction with several other factors e. A meta-analysis showed medium effect sizes when treating BPD patients with DBT, specifically for suicidal and para-suicidal self-harm [ 9 ]. For comorbid axis I disorders, DBT did not show improved effectiveness compared with the usual treatment [ 10 ].

In contrast, trauma exposure is the most effective treatment for PTSD [ 13 ]. However, using trauma exposure in patients with BPD and PTSD may not be feasible because BPD symptoms, such as suicidal and non-suicidal self-harm, are exclusion criteria for exposure therapy [ 1314 ]. Therefore, therapeutic approaches using trauma exposure have not been investigated in these patients. Until recently, only case studies and non-randomized trials indicated that prolonged exposure PEa commonly used and well-investigated exposure method, led to promising reductions in posttraumatic symptoms in patients with BPD and PTSD when integrated in an outpatient DBT-program [ 15 — 17 ].

In addition, the drop-out rate was low, the program was accepted by patients and therapists and the treatment proved to be safe [ 1517 ], which means that a treatment does not lead to negative iatrogenic effects such as an increase in suicidal or non-suicidal self-harm behaviors or reliable symptom aggravation after treatment.In this manner, the individual is made to separate oneself from the problems he is encountering. The essence is to make individuals be able to rewrite the negative bits of their lives in a way that brings about healing.

As one of the main forms of psychological therapy, narrative therapy has various advantages. Similarly however, it has a number of disadvantages as is going to be discussed shortly.

The first disadvantage of narrative therapy is that it so often utilizes a form of language that is complicated, hence difficult to understand. Terms such as dominant stories, problem saturated stories and cultural discourse, essentially headline the reasons as to why it is considered complicated to understand. This is in addition to others such as dominant discourse and alternate story.

Such difficult language and terms of use hamper the ease with which this therapy is, and should be applied among various individuals or patients.

limitations of narrative therapy

Complexities in language constitute complexities in the entire process of communication between the therapist and the patient. Secondly, the patient is left with much of what is needed for the entire therapeutic process. For example, it is assumed that the patients fully know the direction they want their lives to take, thereby making the therapist to fully rely on what is provided by the patient. In a way, the patient acts as the source of the solution to his or her problems.

The problem with this, is that the patient may lose trust in the therapist, because the roles here might appear reversed. Whereas the role of the therapist is to provide knowledge and guidance, it is now the patient who plays this role. Thus, the competence and ability of the therapist might be put to doubt by the patient.

For example, it would mean that for there to be any therapy between the expert and the patient, then the expert has, and must first understand the language spoken by the patient. This however, is not usually practical under the field of counselling. The constructivist approach is against the perception that people can be in charge of creating their own versions of reality, which trickles down to creation of meaningful life.

Additionally, whereas the therapy has been tasked with shielding an individual from the external forces or discourses, it is also taken as nihilistic. This is because it advocates for the separation of an individual from the society. One is encouraged to separate or marginalize oneself, thereby ignoring the norms and practices of the society.

This is caused by the fact that narrative therapists usually have a very low perspective of agency. Finally, this form of therapy is relativistic. The relativity emerges from the belief that human problems and struggles are a product of how the surrounding environment impacts the people.

These problems come about as a result of the decision by people to go against the generally accepted dominant as well as cultural discourses.Various forms of psychotherapy have existed for quite some time.

Many people have also noted the benefits of psychotherapy, asserting its superiority over more controversial forms of treatment. However, there are many forms of psychotherapy which are best applicable to certain situations and ailments. Narrative therapy is defined as a form of psychotherapy which "separates the person from the problem and encourages people to rely on their own skill sets to minimize the problems that exist in their everyday lives. However, before one can determine whether or not narrative therapy is in their best interest, they should first have the security of this version of psychotherapy and all that it entails.

In a nutshell, narrative therapy separates patients from their problems, thus providing an avenue for them to tackle the issues at hand and gain a more objective, critical perspective. According to Psychology Todaythis form of therapy allows individuals to determine the true impacts of their problems, change their future for the better, and clarify their goals.

Good Therapy affirms narrative therapy's penchant for helping people understand that they can employ their innate skills, talents, and strengths to better their lives and bring about change. In essence, patients are encouraged to look at the upsides of a perceived problem and determine how that problem may be benefiting them. Depending on the issue at hand, this can be somewhat of a challenging feat.

However, it is not impossible. For instance, an individual who is having marital issues may view this as a serious issue, and understandably so. However, when undergoing narrative therapy, the afflicted person will be encouraged to look at the potential upsides of the issues within their marriage.

Someone who is struggling to communicate with their spouse may later realize that the distress over communication issues is a manifestation of the love they have for their partner. This love can then serve as the motivating factor for the husband or wife to perhaps make a certain modification to strengthen their marriage and connect with their spouse.

limitations of narrative therapy

In the majority of cases and situations, the problem is usually not as bad as one's perception of the problem. Even during instances where the issue at hand is significant, the individual's perception can either make circumstances better or worse. This can be difficult for people to remember in the heat of the moment, but narrative therapy thrives on allowing patients to gain perspective, pinpoint the upsides, and then advantageously tackle their problems.

One of the most common practices used during narrative therapy occurs when the therapist encourages their patient to tell his or her story. According to Positive Psychology Programtelling one's story not only establishes a narrative, but allows the patient to heal, discover their purpose, and discover the value in the experiences they've had.

Another common practice employed as a part of narrative therapy is known as the externalization technique. The practice above encourages the patient to view their ailment as a separate entity as opposed to a part of themselves. For example, an individual who has a short fuse may regard themselves as an angry person. However, with the externalization technique, the therapist helps the patient to view the emotion of anger as the problem as opposed to the patient perceiving themselves as the problem.

Everyone gets angry at one point or another, and a good narrative therapist would never tell the patient that he or she should not experience normal emotions.