Narrative Therapy

Just like in any other movie, book or legendary fable, your life is composed of themes, characters, plots and settings. It isn’t any different from a narrative that is always under scrutiny from different people, all with varying views about it. This article gives you an insight on how Narrative Therapy can help individuals achieve more meaningful lives.

Basics of Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy usually give people power over their own lives. During counselling, they are made to believe that they are experts in their own lives. This approach seeks to separate problems from individual persons. For instance, someone’s skills, experiences and even mindset may help them neutralize the negativity that comes along with their problems. It gives the client a wider perspective of things.

What are the rules of the game? First of all, clients have to be made aware of factors that affect the quality of their lives, and only pay attention to the positive ones. In life, people usually have a tendency of paying attention to some things and ignoring others. It is important to deeply scrutinize our lives in order to understand the different aspects of it and things that influence our behaviours. This gives us a deeper sense of understanding necessary to change our lives for the better.

Comparing a real life situation to a similar setting in a narrative has been proven to be useful. An event only makes sense if the spiritual, cognitive and emotional views of a person are put together. In many cases, some perspectives outweigh others. This is determined by the scenarios involved and individual’s character traits. For instance, two people who have different emotional empathy levels won’t have the same perspectives on things.

Coleman (1998), said that “intellectual and hormonal intelligence express the activity of different parts of the brain. The intellect is based solely on the workings of the neocortex, the more recently evolved layers at the top of the brain. The emotional centres are lower in the brain, in the ancient sub cortex” From his statements, we understand that people with more emotional intelligence will reason and act different from those with low emotional intelligence.

In this example, there could be possible variations between decision making and perception.

Techniques and Objectives

Understanding the problem

In Narrative Therapy, we get to loosely understand the roots of the problem. Turns out, some of them stem from certain undesired traits such as impatience and aggressiveness. Therefore, these issues are addressed more like a weed that needs to be uprooted in order for the plant to grow healthy. A very good example of this is an excessively aggressive student at school.

This child may for instance feel like it’s his fault that he is the way he is. In this case, the counsellor will work on separating this trait from him. Aggressiveness will therefore be considered as an external trait, and not the child’s character.

Narrative therapy helps individuals re-write their narratives, promoting self-development and enabling them to be more constructive.

Rare Outcomes

If for instance, a client’s story edges more to the negative than the positive side, the counsellor will focus more on the negative outcomes that the story might have. This will require that the counsellor helps the client re-write their story to achieve a unique outcome. This way, the client will be more motivated and not be focused on the problems they have. For better understanding, let’s take it this way. You are a novel writer and have been given a novel to review. You have gone through the novel and didn’t exactly like it, but there are some few ideas that interested you. You therefore picked these ideas and wrote a whole new novel about them.

Alternative narratives

Narrative Therapy focuses on an individual’s strength and positive aspects. This approach focuses on improving a person’s perspective of themselves and the world at large. Alternative narratives perfectly relates to this concept. It works well in conjunction with unique outcomes.

Most people would ask themselves how this is possible. It happens this way. The person will re-create their story based on unique outcomes. This lets them concentrate only on the positives of their previous story, making it easier for them to get positive outcomes. This is based on the fact that no situation is permanent, and that anybody can always re-write their story.

When alternative perspectives are introduced in one’s narrative, the counsellor is able to guide them write a new narrative that will help them defeat their demons. This is almost the same as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. They both aim at creating positive perspectives of situations or events.

Limitations of Narrative Therapy

Just like any other thing, Narrative Therapy has its own limitations. Despite proving to be very effective and being used by many people in conjunction with other therapeutic methods, there are certain things about it that makes it undesirable. When going to a counsellor, someone usually expects to be attended to in an expertly manner. It may come in as a shock to them when they are required to conduct the conversation on their own. As a result, some might not like this approach. Also, this method might be undermined by the inability of clients to express themselves due to maybe lack of confidence or intellectual capacity.

One other limitation is the fact that Narrative Therapy doesn’t have a specific formula or recipe. It is mostly based on philosophy and tends to be a little bit complicated.

What is the most important aspect of this approach?

What is important of all is client empowerment. Instead of trying to predict their story, the counsellor makes their client an expert in their own story. The whole point is to portray the therapeutic relationship and the therapist’s attitude. It shows good interpersonal and communication skills, respect, care, empathy, openness, curiosity and fascination.

As soon as there is a perfect relationship between the client and the counsellor, then they can go ahead and focus on creating a more positive narrative.