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A short introduction to narrative therapy

Narrative Therapy is non-blaming, respectful and sees people as experts in their own lives. A narrative therapy conversation is influential in working with the person to move away from the often repeated list of difficulties and concerns to consider other ways of viewing what’s happening in their lives.

Bringing descriptions to the fore

In narrative therapy we ask a person how descriptions of them effect their lives and whether those effects fit in with what is important to them. The conversation is externalised, this means the description is separate from the person. So questions might be “How does ADHD work in your life? ”; “How would you describe this ADHD? ”; “Do you have a name for this ADHD? ”; “Are there times when ADHD isn’t around? ”. These conversations create a space between a person and a description so that the person can consider their relationship with that description rather than become that description- a change from being anxious to anxiety being around in your life.

Narrative therapy conversations work to build rich descriptions of the particular details of each person’s experience. It makes no assumptions about what particular descriptions mean. The only way you can know what grief is like for one person is to ask them about it, but it is to ask in a way that gives them more knowledge and expertise in living their life in a way that fits in with their commitments and principles.

We’re not just one story

Narrative Therapy stands against a totalising story that can take over the way a person is viewed and the way a person sees themselves. Totalising stories can become the only conversation that surrounds a person especially when that story presents the person as a problem. Narrative therapy sees lives as multi storied and talks with people about these other stories in their lives, their preferred stories, the history of these stories, the people who would know about these different stories that have been hidden by the totalising stories.

A key principle of narrative therapy is curiosity, asking questions to which we genuinely don’t know the answer. The direction of the conversation is unknown, it is led by the person not by the therapist and the therapist is checking out how the conversation is going for them and whether there is a different question that might be helpful.

Do you work in this way? Would you be interested and linking up with other EPs who do? Would you be interested in finding out more about narrative therapy? Please do comment below.

About Charmian Hobbs

Charmian has been working for over 16 years developing her narrative practice and training. She was first introduced to narrative therapy while working at Newcastle University as an academic tutor on the postgraduate programme in educational psychology. As she develops her own practice, she has an ever-growing commitment to, and belief in, the value of narrative and has seen compelling evidence of the change it can bring about.

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5 Comments so far:

  1. Karen says:

    I am interested in working more with NTherapy. I’ve done some training – Level 1 and 2.
    Would like to link up with others.

  2. Dan O'Hare says:

    I am really interested in this way of working. Unfortunately due to time commitments I haven’t been able to further my own training/education in narrative therapy, but I try to read as much as possible and practice some of the approaches in my own work. I’d really appreciate further opportunities to learn and reflect.

  3. Sarah Sivers says:

    I use NT approaches a lot in my work and I find externalising conversations can be incredibly meaningful. I also like to use narrative based letters with the children and young people I work with. I would love to do further training and I would also really appreciate linking with others to see how they use NT.

    There is an excellent free online course provided by the Dulwich Centre which I would highly recommend


    There are also articles / papers that can be downloaded from the Dulwich Centre website

  4. Charmian Hobbs says:

    There are two workshops that the Institute of Narrative therapy is organising. In particular the first one, I’m sure ,you’ll find very interesting

    Welcome to a 1-day workshop, What’s the problem? Playful and creative conversations with children, youngsters and adults with Sabine Vermeire, Willem Beckers, Kris Decraemer, and Mieke Faes from Interactie-Academie, Antwerp, Belgium.

    Witnessing resistance to “trauma” and interpersonal & political violence; a social justice approach – a workshop with Vikki Reynolds

    For details click on http://www.theint.co.uk/workshops.html or go to the website theint.co.uk

    Secondly people have mentioned an interest in joining up with others. If I was to think about a narrative therapy day for EPs to network would you be interested and if so where would be good to hold it?

  5. John Campbell says:

    need some research support – or at least some anecdotal case studies

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