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Narrative Therapy

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Abstract

This paper will look at the logic of narrative therapy by focusing on 5 major points. This paper will begin by discussing how the narrative approach defines and perceives problems. It will address how narrative therapy views the nature of the relationship between the client and the professional. This paper will look at how problems are solved using the narrative approach. It will also focus on three main techniques used in narrative therapy, which will include externalization, deconstruction and re-authoring. This paper will also include a short narrative critique of the medical model.

The Logic of Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is considered postmodern due to the fact that it uses a story telling approach to counseling (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997). It became a popular form of therapy in the nineties and has gained national recognition (Kelley, 1996). Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997) reported that narrative therapy is not interested in discovering the truth about who people are, but are more interested in understanding where people learned these truths about themselves and what role they play in the client's story (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997).

Problems in narrative therapy are referred to as discourses. Kelley (1996) defined a discourse as truths that the client has come to believe based on exposure to their culture and society. Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997) defined discourses as "a cluster of ideas produced within the wider culture" (93). A discourse is when a person thinks that they should act or do a certain thing because that is what society deems acceptable. According to Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997), discourses emerge from a variety of places, including family, culture, media etc. and are built up over a long period of time. When a person does not want to go along with the social norm they begin to feel like there is something wrong with them. At that point is generally when the person begins some form of counseling (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997).

After the problem is identified, the next important step in narrative therapy is to separate the person from the problem, which is known as externalization (Kelley, 1996; Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997). According to Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997), externalizing conversations are created with just a subtle change in the counselor's language that promotes a separation between the person and the problem. As a result, clients' inclination to inflict blame on themselves or others begins to lessen (Kelley, 1996). Narrative therapists recommend externalization because it is believed that once the client is able to see the problem separate from themselves it makes it easier for the person to begin fighting the problem rather than fighting themselves (Kelley, 1996).

Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997) reported that the idea that people are not to blame for their problems is a simple way of thinking. It is a very different belief than most modern forms of therapy that believe that people have to take full responsibility for their problems before they can begin to make changes in their life (Kelley, 1996). Similarly, Gerald (1999) reported that in the medical model of psychotherapy, problems are seen as a disease or disorder. The client is viewed as having a deficit or something wrong with them. The medical model is a cause and effect approach to therapy. The role of the therapist is to find the cause of the problem and then to effectively treat the problem with some form of medication (Gerald, 1999). Narrative therapists do not see client's problems as a cause and effect situation. They focus their attention on both the therapist and the client getting a full understanding of the client's experiences and helping them to see where these problem beliefs came from (Kelley, 1996; Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997).

Another important technique used in narrative therapy is the deconstruction of the discourse. The process of deconstruction breaks down the "taken for granted assumptions" surrounding the discourse (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997). According to Kelley (1996) this process is recommended by narrative therapists because it allows the client to begin to see where the discourse emerged from. The therapist must first just listen to the story and determine what the client sees as the existing problem (Kelley, 1996). Then the therapist begins to ask questions with the intention of bringing forth the full meaning of the problem (Kelley, 1996). In deconstruction the therapist searches for answers as to who all is involved with the problem, what past events lead up to the problem development, how the problem changed over time, how the client has been fighting the problem thus far and how the problem is affecting the client's life (Kelley, 1996).

Kelley (1996) reported that after the therapist has a full understanding of the problem the deconstruction phase moves on to its second stage. The therapist and the client begin working together to break down the prevailing story in order to map the influence the problem is having on the client's life (Kelley, 1996). Mapping the effect of the problem is particularly important because it lays the foundation of the new story line (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997). According to Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston (1997) typically when the effect of the problem is discussed with the client they begin to feel as if their story has been heard. They become more aware of when the problem took control of their life in the first place and take an even more active role in wanting to distance themselves from the problem (Monk, Winslade, Crocket & Epston, 1997).

Once this stage is achieved and the client gets to the point where they are eager to begin fighting the problem the therapist moves to the re-authoring phase. According to Kelley (1996) and

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