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Narrative therapy

The meaning of «narrative therapy»

Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to help patients identify their values and the skills associated with them. It provides the patient with knowledge of their ability to live these values so they can effectively confront current and future problems. The therapist seeks to help the patient co-author a new narrative about themselves by investigating the history of those values. Narrative therapy claims to be a social justice approach to therapeutic conversations, seeking to challenge dominant discourses that it claims shape people's lives in destructive ways. While narrative work is typically located within the field of family therapy, many authors and practitioners report using these ideas and practices in community work, schools and higher education.[1][2] Narrative therapy has come to be associated with collaborative as well as person-centered therapy.[3][page needed]

Narrative therapy was developed during the 1970s and 1980s, largely by Australian social worker Michael White and David Epston of New Zealand,[4][5] and it was influenced by the work of philosopher Michel Foucault.[4][6]

The narrative therapist focuses upon assisting people to create stories about themselves, about their identities, that are helpful to them. This work of "re-authoring identity" helps people identify their values and identify the skills and knowledge to live out these values by way of the therapist's skilled use of listening and questioning.[7] Through the process of identifying the history of values in people's lives, the therapist and client are able to co-author a new story about the person.[8]:24

The story people tell about themselves and that is told about them is important in this approach, which asserts that the story of a person's identity may determine what they think is possible for themselves. The narrative process allows people to identify what values are important to them and how they might use their own skills and knowledge to live these values.[8]:36

This includes a focus on "unique outcomes" (a term of Erving Goffman) or exceptions to the problem that wouldn't be predicted by the problem's narrative or story itself.[citation needed]

The concept of identity is important in narrative therapy. The approach aims not to conflate people's identities with the problems they may face or the mistakes they have made. Rather, the approach seeks to avoid modernist, essentialist notions of the self that lead people to believe there is a biologically determined "true self" or "true nature". Instead, identity, seen as primarily social, can be changed according to the choices people make.[9][page needed]

To separate people's identities from the problems they face, narrative therapy employs externalizing conversations. The process of externalization allows people to consider their relationships with problems; thus the narrative motto: "The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem."[4][page needed] A person's strengths or positive attributes also are externalized, allowing people to engage in the construction and performance of preferred identities.[citation needed]

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