Narrative therapy suggests that distress can often result from people identifying so much with the problems they struggle with that it becomes difficult to separate it from who they are. In Narrative therapy, problems are externalized and viewed as ‘stories’ and opportunities are created for these stories to be rewritten in ways that are more empowering or more facilitative of well-being.
Narrative therapy aims to increase awareness about the ways in which social discourse shape how we see things and the role that systemic issues of power and oppression can hinder our well-being.
The idea of social constructionism is of central importance in narrative therapy. It challenges basic assumptions about what reality is and suggests that reality cannot be considered independently of the societal contexts in which it emerges. The historical, geographical, and cultural context in which someone exists can influence the values, norms, and beliefs they internalize, and these can become limiting in many ways. Because reality is socially constructed, it can also be analyzed and questioned, and in this way new possible perspectives can be developed that are more facilitative to well-being.
Narrative therapists facilitate the client in telling and re-telling their story, creating alternative stories, and separating the problems one deals with their sense of self. Narrative therapy brings awareness to the capacities and strengths that people already have that they may not necessarily be aware of that can be of assistance in coping with what they struggle with. The process is co-operative, and the therapist does not see themselves as the expert, but rather they strive to create an egalitarian relationship where the client is seen as the expert of their experience. Therapy may also include deconstructing societal discourse and values that limit people. As this understanding is developed, aspects of it are externalized, serving to separate the person from the problem and allow other more preferred perspectives to emerge.
References: Payne, M. (2006). Narrative therapy [2nded]: an introduction for counsellors. London: Sage Publications.
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