There are a few different therapies available that can help you overcome mental health conditions and relationship challenges. Narrative therapy is one of those therapies. Narrative therapies can be used in various settings, including individual, couple, and family therapy settings.1

When you hear the word “narrative,” you probably think of storytelling or writing. In essence, that is what narrative therapy is, done with a professional narrative therapist. Narrative therapy helps you understand the dominant story and identify alternative stories that are accurate and more life-enhancing stories and narratives.1 Let’s take a deeper look at narrative therapy.

The Theory Behind Narrative Therapy

There is no denying that your life story and experiences impact the way you view yourself, the world, and other people. Narrative therapy seeks that as an individual, you create meaning out of the events of your own life and form narratives around these events.

You can rewrite your life stories by learning how to deconstruct dominant stories, identifying patterns in how you interpret life challenges and events, and reconstructing the life events and challenges in a more productive and healthy light.1 Through re-interpretation, you can change unhealthy and negative narratives about your life and experiences into a healthy and beneficial alternative story that help strengthen your quality of life.

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How to Rewrite the Narrative

You have multiple interrelating dominant and alternative stories that shape the way you see yourself, and the challenges you experience and discuss in therapy aren’t located within you but rather shaped and influenced by cultural constructions of power and influence.2 Narrative therapy seeks to rewrite the narrative by using the following narrative therapy techniques to shape your relationships and your life:2

  • Re-considering: To consider again with the willingness to reverse or change something.3
  • Re-appreciating: To re-evaluate the nature, significance, or worth of something.4
  • Re-authorizing: To authorize something again.5

Understanding Constructivism

Constructivism is a concept that applies to narrative therapy, and to gain a clear understanding of how narrative therapy separates people from their problems, it is helpful to understand what constructivism is. Constructivism is a theoretical framework that believes that individuals actively create their perception of the world through the interpretation of events and objects in their lives in terms they already know.3 In other words, your past experiences shape your current state of knowledge which influences what information you interpret and how you interpret new information.6

What is Narrative Therapy Used to Treat?

Unfortunately, not a lot of research is available regarding the effectiveness of narrative therapy in treating various disorders.7 However, research that does exist shows that narrative therapy is beneficial in treating trauma and trauma disorders such as PTSD. More specifically, narrative exposure therapy (NET) helps individuals who suffer from complex trauma usually related to social, political, or cultural forces.8

Characteristics of NET include:

  • Sessions can be conducted in small groups or on an individual basis to protect the personal and sexual identity of the patient.
  • Sessions are four to ten sessions in length.
  • The patient and narrative therapist create a timeline of the patient’s life focusing on the traumatic event(s) as well as positive experiences.
  • The patient fills in the details of any gaps in memory to develop an autobiographical story about their lives.
  • The autobiography story gains richness and helps to refine and understand the traumatic memory.
  • The therapist’s approach is one of compassion, active listening, alliance, unrelenting positive regard, and understanding.
  • The patient is asked to describe the dominant story in depth through emotions, body sensations, and thoughts in detail to the therapist.
  • The patient is encouraged to re-tell the traumatic event with an emphasis on the present moment.
  • The therapist creates an autobiography for the patient and presents it to the patient when treatment ends.
  • NET provides an opportunity for the patient to reflect on their own life rather than solely on the traumatic event, which promotes personal identity.

Narrative Therapy and Substance Use Disorders

If you are struggling with PTSD, addiction, or any other mental health disorder, we developed narrative therapy programs that may be able to help you. At Camelback Recovery, we recognize the importance of treating both mental health and substance use disorders. That’s why we offer several evidence-based therapies to help treat your underlying causes of addiction as well as to prevent future relapse.

We recognize that effective treatment needs to be specific to people’s own lives and unique needs. Contact Camelback Recovery and speak to a specialist who can help answer questions you may have about treatment and even help verify your insurance coverage for services. Call (602) 466-9880 today. You don’t have to live with trauma, mental illness, or addiction any longer. Let Camelback Recovery provide you with the support and help you deserve.

Sources:

  1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). APA dictionary of psychology: Narrative therapy.
  2. American Psychological Association. (2011). Narrative therapy.
  3. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Reconsider.
  4. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Appreciate.
  5. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Reauthorize.
  6. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). APA dictionary of psychology: Constructivism.
  7. Bera, W., Erbes, C.R., Leskela, J., Stillman, J.R., & Wieling, E. (2014). A pilot examination of the use of narrative therapy with individuals diagnosed with PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress.
  8. American Psychological Association. (2017). Narrative exposure therapy (NET).