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What is narrative therapy?

Learn about narrative therapy, how it reduces resistance and ambivalence, and why it is an effective choice for clients seeking treatment.

What Is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify and change the stories (or narratives) they tell about themselves. It is based on the idea that our lives are shaped by the stories we tell ourselves and that by changing these stories, we can change our lives.

Narrative Therapy

When Narrative Therapy Used

Narrative therapy can be used in several different ways but is mostly used to help people explore and make meaning of their lives. It can be used in individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, and even group therapy. It is also sometimes used in community settings, such as schools, different events, and community centers. 1

What to Expect in Narrative Therapy

If you’re considering narrative therapy, you may wonder what it entails. Narrative therapy focuses on the stories we tell about ourselves, others, and our lives. These stories can help to shape our identity and how we see the world.

Narrative Therapy Techniques

Narrative therapy techniques can help people explore their life stories and identify areas they may want to change. This process can be very empowering and supportive, allowing individuals to be seen as experts in their own lives. Various narrative therapy techniques will be discussed further below.

Putting Together Your Narrative

Before beginning narrative therapy, it can be helpful to spend some time thinking about the stories you want to tell. This may involve reflecting on your past experiences and what they mean to you. It can also be helpful to consider how you would like your story to end.


One of the key techniques used in narrative therapy is externalization. This involves helping individuals to see their problems as separate from themselves. This can be done by giving the problem a name and talking about it as if it were an entity outside the individual. 2


Another significant technique used in narrative therapy is deconstruction. This involves challenging assumptions and beliefs that may be limiting or harmful. It can help individuals to see their problems in a new light and identify new ways of thinking about them.

Unique Outcomes

In narrative therapy, clients are often encouraged to think about what they want their lives to look like. This can involve setting goals and planning for positive change. It is believed that everyone can create their unique outcome.


Narrative therapy is closely related to existentialism, a philosophical movement that emphasizes the existence of the individual self and the subjective experience of life. This philosophy informs how narrative therapy is practiced. 3

What Can Narrative Therapy Help With

Narrative therapy has been shown to be effective in treating a variety of mental health issues, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The therapy can be particularly helpful for those who have attachment issues or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 4

Benefits of Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is a beneficial form of therapy for individuals struggling with various mental health issues. The main goals of narrative therapy are to help the individual feel empowered, supported, and non-judged. 

One of the important ways narrative therapies cause change is by considering the context of the individual’s life and experiences. This allows for a more nuanced understanding of the individual’s unique situation.  Additionally, narrative therapy relies on the client’s expertise rather than the therapists. This can help create a more collaborative relationship between client and therapist. 

How Does Narrative Therapy Cause Change?

One of the important ways that narrative therapy causes change is by helping individuals to externalize their problems. This means that instead of internalizing their issues and feeling like they cause their own problems, individuals can see their problems as separate from themselves.

This can be a very empowering experience for people struggling with feeling like they are not good enough or will never be able to change. Another way that narrative therapy causes change is by supporting the individual in deconstructing any negative beliefs they have about themselves. This process involves exploring the evidence for and against these negative beliefs.

Shifting Focus

Once the individual sees more evidence for their positive qualities than their negative ones, they can start to challenge and change their negative beliefs. Finally, narrative therapy helps individuals to identify their unique outcomes. This means that instead of focusing on what they should do or what others want them to do, individuals can focus on what would truly make them happy and fulfilled. Identifying unique outcomes can be a very motivating experience for people stuck in a rut and feeling like they have no control over their lives.

Overall, narrative therapy is a very empowering and supportive approach that can cause real change in an individual’s life.

Concerns/Limitations of Narrative Therapy

There are some concerns and limitations associated with narrative therapy. These include the fact that it can be time-consuming and may not be appropriate for all clients. Additionally, narrative therapy may not be covered by insurance. However, narrative therapy is a safe and effective option for many people.

Narrative Therapy

How Effective Is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a relatively new approach, so there is limited research on its effectiveness. However, the available research suggests that narrative therapy is effective for many mental health issues.

If you are considering narrative therapy, it is important to find a therapist who is trained in this approach. This will ensure that you receive the best possible care.

Get Narrative Therapy at Genesis Recovery

At Genesis Recovery, we understand that traditional forms of therapy may not work for everyone. We offer narrative therapy, a unique approach focusing on your personal story, as we understand that each individual has their own unique subset of needs, expectations, and experiences. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about how this therapy can help you heal.


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