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Michael White, a practicing social worker and family therapist, assisted by his friend David Epston, developed the Narrative Therapy during the 1970s and the 1980s. In 1990, they published the book, ‘Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends’. It popularized the therapy in North America. Narrative therapy says that our personalities are shaped by the stories of our lives. As a part of this therapy, the person seeking counseling is made to narrate the stories of his life. The therapist helps an individual find solutions to his problems using the narratives of his own life.
The therapy focuses on externalization of problems. This approach helps re-author the stories of a person’s life. It enables one to look at his/her problems with a different perspective and devise ways to get out of them. It takes an approach of encouraging people to recognize their abilities to confront problems, instead of taking a purely pathological approach. Under this therapy, the person’s experiences are focused on.
With the help of this therapy, a person is made to restructure his/her perceptions because it is believed that wrong thinking can lead to psychological problems. The therapy takes into account, the influences of family and society on the person. The person is asked to speculate how his family and friends perceive him. The therapist indirectly asks the person to talk about his image in society.
After listening to his story, the therapist encourages the person to reconsider the situations in his life and redefine his identity. He motivates the person towards restructuring the story and finding a way out of his difficulties.
The counselor or therapist aims at understanding an individual’s personality and background in order to find the skills or traits in him that can aid him overcome his weaknesses. The concept of narrative therapy is based on clearly understanding one’s problems. It rests on the principle of naming each problem to better understand its consequences on life. The person and his counselor together look for different outcomes that the problem can have. This leads the person to think of new ways to face situations and new means to tackle problems.
The narrative therapist focuses on the positive aspects of the individual’s personality. This makes the person realize his potential. In the process, one reveals his own competencies or strengths and thus, starts feeling confident about fighting his problems.
Narrative therapy is sometimes criticized as being largely based on perceptions rather than truths. It is thought of as a therapy where the therapist’s opinion might influence the person’s narrative. Some disregard this therapy by saying that it lacks a clinical approach. Opinions may differ but the therapy can prove to be useful as it helps you find answers for yourself. It does not focus on an expert solving your problems. It believes that you, through the realization of your capabilities, can solve your problems. It relies on finding your new and true self as you narrate the story of your life.