Narrative Therapy is an approach that is underpinned by the idea that people make sense of what happens to them by putting it into words. These words become the stories of our lives. We tell different stories about ourselves depending on who we are talking with and where.
But when people come for counselling the story they tell is often a problem saturated one. Problems have a habit of taking over our lives and making it difficult for us to hold on to the other stories that we prefer about our lives and who we are. Many things in our life go by unstoried - we never describe them.
So when working from a narrative therapy perspective I will be listening out for the thin traces of other stories in what you say - that may be more in line with your hopes dreams, values and commitments in life. I will be looking out for glimpses of what you hold dear but which you haven't yet put into words.
When we do put things into words. whether by describing a small accomplishment or a setback, this thing that we have described becomes much more available to us to look at. It becomes possible for us to step back from a setback and take a position on it. Or to link an accomplishment with other small developments in our life or to our intentions and hopes. We can trace the histories of things in our life and think about who the people are who have been influential to us. Our lives can become linked to others lives across time and space so that we no longer feel so alone and burdened by our problems.
One of the practices of Narrative therapy is to seperate people from problems. Often people come to view themselves as the problem. For example; 'I am an anxious person.' Rather than ask how long they have been anxious I might ask 'How does the anxiety effect you?' What does it get you doing or not doing?' 'Can you remember when the anxiety got a grip of you like this?' 'Are there areas of your life that the anxiety hasn't managed to get in on?' Questions like these can begin to create some distance between a person and the problem.
It becomes possible to take a position on the problem. For e.g. : ' I don't want to carry on being so anxious because its stopping me from seeing my friends and getting in the way of doing well at work.' Enquiring about why its not okay for the anxiety to be having these effects can start to uncover what a peron values in life and holds dear.
When you no longer view yourself as the problem you can start to remember the skills and knowledge that you have about your life, or the times when the problem didn't get in the way and this can help inform your next steps in response to the problem.
One of the things I really value about working narratively is that it becomes possible to think together about the bigger stories (discourses) that are effecting our lives, in our culture and time. And it becomes possible to consider how they may be having an impact on us and how where we want to stand in relation to these ideas about life.
If you are interested in reading about some examples of this way of working I recommend going to the Dulwich Centre website: www.dulwichcentre.com.au/ and reading some of the articles.