Narrative Therapy


The basic premise of narrative Therapy is that we ‘Narrate’ our lives. We tell stories about our lives – the past, the present and we anticipate the future, and thereby give meaning to it.  This therapeutic approach was developed by Michael White and David Epston. Their work was significantly influenced by the Post Structuralists, notably Michael Foucault and Jacques Derrida.  Some of the basic premises are:

  • People do not construct their stories individually; it is co-constructed in relationships with other people. ‘We come to see ourselves in mirrors that other people hold up for us’.
  • This process always takes place in a cultural context and therefor are influenced by ideas about gender, race, religion, and politics and so on.
  • There ideas are formed through discussions (discourse) and conversations with others, across all levels of our lives: social, family, political etc.
  • These discourses produce a particular ‘power’ relationship which constructs particular meanings to our lives and stories.
  • Sometimes these discourses produce different and competing, even incompatible versions of reality.

‘Externalising’ is one of the approaches to Narrative Therapy developed by White and Epston, that encourages persons to objectify and at times ‘personify’ a problemthat they experience as oppressive. In the process the problem becomes a separate entity and is external to the person or relationship that was ascribed as the problem. (1989, p38). Different stories are created and different preferred outcomes generated.  This helps the client to break free from limiting social and cultural descriptions.

Narrative is thus marked by a non-blaming, non-pathological stance.

For more information go to: information about narrative approaches to dealing with grief and loss.

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