Narrative therapy is a collaborative and non-judgmental approach that invites clients to take a lead role in their lives. Therapists encourage clients to view their challenges as separate from them and assumes that clients have many skills, abilities, values, commitments, beliefs, and competencies to make healthy changes in their lives. In addition, a therapist will consider the various contexts of a client’s life including class, race, gender, sexual orientation and abilities to effectively develop treatment techniques.
As clients begin to explore their lives and the broader context of these events, stories begin to emerge. Therapists help guide clients through these stories and help to pick out the notable events that have impacted their lives. From here, narratives are built. These narratives help describe and reshape a client’s perspective of their life: past, present and future. At times, when narratives begin to emerge, clients begin to focus more on the problems in their lives, known as problem saturated stories. Comments such as “I have always failed at things in my life.” Using active listening and effective questioning, therapists work towards helping clients not become absorbed in their problem saturated narratives and encourage clients to identify strengths, hopes, commitments, values, desire and dreams. Over time, problem saturated stories become rich with these positive qualities and clients begin to rewrite their narrative.
Narrative therapy can benefit children, adolescents and adults experiencing any challenge in their life. This approach helps to bring perspective to clients and overcome challenges that have hindered their growth. Studies have shown that narrative therapy can be effective with treating couples and family issues as well. Research has also shown effective use of narrative therapy for depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse, developmental and intellectual challenges, eating disorders and stress.