Narrative Approaches

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The third tradition, the narrative approach, views life as organized by personal, familial, and cultural themes, and regards therapy as an intimate form of collaboration in editing the client's life story. Narrative perspectives have burgeoned over the last 15 years as clinicians have found the generative and integrative characteristics of stories to be apt metaphors for individuals' meaning-making processes. Most narrative therapeutic perspectives share the common view of the person as both author and hero of a life story that invariably includes an unexpected (and often uncho-sen) cast of characters, events, and twists on the temporal and situational plots of one's life. In this way narratives lend coherence and integrity to one's past as well as contribute to the way one anticipates the outcomes of a life story in the future.

Clinicians working in the narrative vein view emotional distress as resulting from or marked by a break, failure, or gap in one's ongoing autobiography. Such narrative suspension leaves the person with a diminished capacity to emplot experienced events or subjected to unanticipated subplots that are markedly discrepant with what the person expected from life. For instance, the traumatic loss of a spouse later in one's life removes a highly valued figure from the partner's life story and necessitates the tragically painful revision of the partner's storied role as companion, friend, caretaker, and lover, among others.

Most narrative therapeutic approaches share the goal of weaving painful, negative, or other unexpected events into the client's dominant life narrative. That is, the client and therapist collaborate to help the person both live and author an active, integrated story. Here, the therapist functions as an editor or co-author in attempting revisions of the client's life narrative. For instance, treatment for the bereaved spouse might focus on grieving the loss of the partner by examining how the person dealt with previous losses and the way these were integrated or interpreted in the larger framework of meaning that informs the person's life. Emphasis also may be placed upon developing further roles with children, other family, and friends as a way to emplot a new life "chapter" without the deceased spouse.

Given the goals of narrative repair and reconstruction, therapists working from this perspective may employ a variety of literary techniques. Developing metaphors to help clients more clearly define problems, tease out the meanings of significant struggles and emotional experiences, and find solutions may provide benefits at all phases of therapy. Structured reminiscence may help the client identify salient events, people, and plots in their own stories over the course of their lives. Reminiscence for the grieving spouse may reveal how emotions of sadness, anger, or betrayal from previous losses were incorporated into the life narrative. Writing assignments, such as a letter to the deceased partner, journals, and dialogues may help to both bring problems into greater relief and

Constructivist Psychotherapies to help transform them so they may be integrated with existing life stories. Other written documents exchanged between the client and therapist such as certificates of "readiness for change'' or "completion of therapy'' may help to document and certify real changes in the client's life story.

In summary, narrative approaches to therapy include a rich and growing collection of constructivist methods for acknowledging and creating change in clients' lives. As exemplified by the recent growth in both the number and types of books and scholarly articles on narrative themes, this field of endeavor appears to be among the most rapidly growing areas of constructivism.

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  • david
    What is narrative approaches in mental health?
    23 days ago

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