Narrative Therapy was developed in the 1970s and 1980s by an Australian therapist named Michael White. As a counselling approach, Narrative Therapy is characterized by four major themes.
Identity. In Narrative Therapy, people’s identities are seen as being shaped by the stories they have about themselves. Therapy helps people move from negative stories that only take account of information that reinforces negative beliefs about the self, to more holistic narratives that acknowledge the presence of joys, victories, and strengths alongside suffering.
Unique outcomes. To help construct these more holistic, positive narratives, Narrative Therapy focuses on “unique outcomes,” or moments that don’t fit with the negative story. For example, a narrative therapist would help someone with the story “I’m a bad person” to acknowledge times when they behaved with kindness or integrity.
Documents. There’s also a big emphasis on documents in Narrative Therapy. Narrative therapists often write letters to their clients in which they outline all the strengths that they have observed in them and all the reasons they are grateful to know them. These can then be reviewed by the clients in order to help solidify the new, more holistic narrative of the self.
Power. As a postmodern therapy, Narrative Therapy emphasizes that the therapist should not have power over the client. Instead, therapist and client should be equals who work together to help the client achieve his or her goals. Narrative Therapy also recognizes that there are many societal forces that exert power over people, like racism, homophobia, or gender inequality.