Unfolding Your Narrative With Narrative Therapy
“There is no single story.” What is a story, you ask? A story comprises of four elements. It is essentially a number of events joined across time in a particular theme and through a plot. Can we think of our lives as stories? For sure, that’s what Narrative therapy says that we are born into stories, and that stories are not unitary but multiple. Our life is not a single story but a multi-storied entity where we are the experts of our own lives, where our problems are not considered the part of our identity rather, they are seen as external entities that visit us from time to time.
The above states a few key-ideas of narrative therapy. Here is a concise list:
> We are born into stories. There is no single story. Our lives are multi-storied.
> People are the expert of their own lives.
> The person is not the problem but the problem is the problem.
Narrative therapy is a non-blaming approach towards psychotherapy where people aren’t seen as broken or damaged goods but as experts, as intentional beings who respond even the in direst of circumstances with the wisdom of their lived experiences. Not just adults, Narrative practices consider children too as the expert of their lives.
In this particular modality of Psychotherapy, the therapist stays de-centered, curious and influential. They do not impose their own ideas and way of life on the person consulting them rather they play the roles of co-travelers in the journey of life of that person. They are curious beings who always place the problem story in the social and cultural context and believe that identities are socially constructed that problems aren’t innate but they develop through life depending on various contexts and situations that arise out of the oppression from various systemic discourses. They treat problems as different entities and not internalized states. They explore people’s hopes, values and beliefs and help them in making their skills and know-hows of life more visible to them. Know-hows are nothing but the knowledge of navigating through the ‘hows’ of life.
When a therapist asks, “Even after the anxiety being with you all the time as you mentioned earlier, how did you manage to go to your friend’s party?” The person might say, “I pushed myself through a self-pep talk to go attend the party.” This is an instance of know-how, the skill that the person used to stay away from the problem. These little gaps in the problem story are called ‘unique outcomes’ or ‘sparkling moments.’ The therapist is always on the lookout for these little gaps that are the pathway to the preferred space of the individual. When people come saturated in their problem story, here the Narrative therapist helps the person in deconstruction of the problem story and help them in reaching the alternative story or the preferred space of the individual. This ‘preferred space’ is guided by the person’s hopes, values, dreams, beliefs and aspirations.
Following are the values that a Narrative Therapist holds on to:
1. De-centered stance: Narrative Therapists always tend to take a de-centered stance. They do not advice people on what is right or wrong, rather they respect the way of responding of the people who consult them and consider them the expert of their own lives. They never impose their own ideas or way of living on others.
2. Intentional beings: Narrative Therapists have the ability of loitering with intention whilst helping the person to navigate through their problems. They set an intention before every session, before every question that they ask. They hold those meanings of little actions, - which might be lost without intention.
Do you wish to be the author of your own story? You know what, you already are. So, come, let's hear you narrate your own story - no one can say it or feel it like you do. Speak to one of our counselors and unleash the untapped potential of becoming the hero/shero of your life. Click here.
3. Respecting agency: Narrative Therapists staying de-centered and intentional are pro-choice, i.e., they respect the person’s agency. They respect the choice of the people who come to consult them. They believe that individuals are the experts of their own lives and hence are free to exercise their own choice on their lives.
4. Staying curious: Narrative Therapists remain open to all possibilities. They believe that infinite possibilities exist out there and all we have to do is stay curious and keep moving gently with intention to see what becomes visible.
5. Respecting people’s expertise: Narrative therapy holds that we are inherently “human” and that people’s problems don’t arise because of some inherent deficiency or weakness rather it arises because of years of conditioning by the oppressive systemic discourses like that of patriarchy, casteism, colorism, ableism, capitalism etc. Narrative therapists believe that people are experts, they know their know-hows as they are constantly responding to the problems that creep in their lives. Narrative Therapists believe that every person is capable enough to live life to their fullest.
Most of the Narrative therapists engage in talk therapy and are always on the lookout for sparkling moments that provides an entry into the person’s preferred sense of identity. They believe that if an individual is not agreeing with their present, that means there is something that they want to achieve, which is their preferred sense of being. A narrative therapist helps the person n reaching their preferred space. As they believe that the problems are external entities, they engage in various intentional conversations to make visible the distance between the person and the problem. In this context, depression is not seen as a disorder but rather as “the Sadness” that visits the person from time to time. Likewise, anxiety may be called “Mr. Jitters” that live the person all the time. Narrative therapists help the person re-author their lives by way of showing to them the several little actions that the person undertakes in responding to the problem.
That is not all, Narrative therapy respects the collective humanity of all individuals. It believes in linking people’s lives together than pulling them apart. It is one of the gentlest approaches to psychotherapy.
“The possibilities are infinite. Keep on keeping on.”
About the author:
Neha Jain, Narrative Therapist, Psychologist at EduPsych
Reach out to her, here.