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Narrative Theory

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Becky Sernett

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Narrative Theory

The Story of Narrative Therapy

"Today, psychologists have a favorite word, and that word is maladjusted. I tell you today that there are some things in our social system to which I am proud to be maladjusted. I shall never be adjusted to lynch mobs, segregation, economic in equalities, 'The madness of militarism,' and self-defeating physical violence. The salvation of the world lies in the maladjusted."
— Martin Luther King Jr.

(MLK quote posted online at narrativeapproaches.com)
Once Upon a Time...

Michael White (1948-2008)
born and raised in Adelaid, South Australia
before opening his private family practice, worked as a probation and welfare worker, and then a psychiatric social worker at a children's hospital
met David Epston at a conference in 1981 and began exchanging ideas
founded the Dulwich Centre in 1983, which emphasizes "narrative approaches to counseling and community work"
co-wrote Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends with Epston, which was published in 1990
founded Adelaid Narrative Therapy Centre in January 2008, and died of a heart attack in April

David Epston (1944 - )
born and raised in Canada
went to college in New Zealand & earned a B.A. in sociology & anthropology in 1969
earned an MA in applied social studies in the UK in 1976, and a certificate of qualification in social work in 1977
returned to New Zealand and worked as a hospital social worker, and then a family therapist consultant before co-directing the Family Therapy Centre in Auckland
Two family therapists--Michael White (left) and David Epston--met at a conference in Australia...

And pretty soon afterwards... Narrative Therapy was born...
Questioning, discovering and re-authoring socially constructed "norms," particularly as they relate to an individual's perception of self and relation to others, underscore the work of narrative therapy.
Key Concepts & General Outline of Narrative Therapy
Therapist acts as an expert facilitator/collaborator, not authority, in the clinical session, and keeps an open, inquisitive mind
Client is the expert on her truth & story
Therapist listens to client's storytelling, helping client to draw out her story, and "maps" the extent to which the problem impacts her life
This begins the externalization of the problem (making it separate from the client by deconstructing the story that was accepted as "truth")
Strengths and competencies are identified
Therapists starts to help client re-author story with the identification of these strengths (new story is created)
Dear Harold...
Letters can be an used in many ways in narrative therapy...
White and Epston wrote letters to clients post-session, summarizing stories and progress made (became case notes)...
Letters would include questions for clients to consider...
Also, a client can write a letter to herself, or to a family member....
The therapist can write a client a "reference letter" discussing how the client is committed to no longer letting alcohol control his/her life...
Some clients have said that the letters from therapists were more valuable than the clinical sessions themselves...
Questions guide the story-building work... (questions aim to re-construct the client's experience)

These help "map" the problem...
When did your son's "accidents" start?
How do his "accidents" impact your life?
These try to help clients discover "unique outcomes" (better endings)...
Was there ever a time when the anger didn't take you over and you resisted? What was that like for you? How did you do it?
What form would standing up against your anger take?
These may help client find an audience for their new story...
Who might need to know about this new point you've reached in life?
What might you say to them?

Meet Harold Crick... He hears a voice... Emma Thompson's voice... who says he is going to die....
Fortunately for Harold, there is Dustin Hoffman, literature professor and expert in narratives that include the line... "Little did he know..."

With Hoffman's help, Harold Crick becomes more aware of his narrative....
There is no FORMULA to narrative therapy, but there are common techniques. Narrative therapy is a process that relies on the sensitive and caring listening of the therapist who is genuinely interested in helping the client discover and re-author her story.
Full transcript