Narrative therapy is a style of therapy that helps people become, and accept being, experts in their own lives. In narrative therapy, there is an emphasis on the stories that we develop and carry with us throughout our lives. As we experience events and interactions, we make sense of those experiences and they, in turn, influence how we view ourselves and our world. We can carry multiple stories at once, such as those related to our self-esteem, our abilities, our relationships and our work, for example.
This therapy is developed with three main components: respect, no blame, and the client is the expert in his life (and not the psychologist).
What must be considered
The approach of narrative therapy is based on the stories that we develop within ourselves and carry through our lives. Meaning is given to personal experiences and these meanings that are found, or that others have given, influence how we see ourselves and the world around us. Stories influence thoughts and, in turn, decision-making and behavior.
It has some basic principles that must be taken into consideration:
-Reality is socially constructed. The experience with others becomes the known reality.
-Reality is influenced by language.
-Having a narrative helps to maintain and organize reality.
-There is no objective reality, there may be different realities for the same experience. What is true for you does not have to be true for someone else.
In narrative therapy , stories are created throughout life as a way of giving meaning to experiences and being able to carry many stories with oneself at the same time. Although some stories can be positive and others negative, all stories impact life in the past, present, and future.
The stories interrelate four elements: experiences, sequences, time and plot. There are also factors that can contribute to the development of stories and influence the way experiences or interactions are interpreted, as well as meanings. Some of these factors are: age, socioeconomic status, education, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, beliefs and values, etc.
Beliefs around these things shape how we might see ourselves and what we tell ourselves about an experience or interaction.
The importance of the dominant story
Although multiple stories can be carried at the same time, there is generally one story that is more dominant than the others. When the dominant story gets in the way of people living the best life or seems to sabotage efforts for growth and change, it becomes problematic. Many times, when people come to the therapist’s office, they are faced with a problematic dominant story that causes them emotional pain.
A narrative therapist works with clients to explore the stories they convey about themselves, their lives, and their relationships. When a dominant story is problematic, it will emerge in interactions with others, in decision making, and in behavior patterns.
A troublesome dominant story that is common is when you start a judgment that others made, for example in childhood. If your father calls you ‘lazy’ you might start to think that you really were like that and you wove that label into your story yourself as you progressed through your experiences. The trait of being lazy continues to grow and becomes part of a dominant story for you, influencing how you see yourself and how you behave towards others in the future. This becomes a problem due to external circumstances that influence your decision-making and your behavior, thinking that you are the main problem.