Training to be a Narrative Therapist

I have been studying Narrative Therapy with the Institute of Narrative Therapy and am proud to say I have completed Level One 🙂

Narrative Therapy is a form of counselling that uses the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our lives. It separates problems from people, and helps them use their own skills and knowledge to find a solution.

This is what I’ve learned so far:

The story metaphor in therapy. How to understand people’s actions from the stories of their lives. An appreciation of how stories shape lives and re-storying can re-shape lives. How to rewrite the past without erasing past experiences.

Externalisation. How to externalise problems in multiple ways. How to make vague problems concrete and manageable. Unique outcomes and alternative story development – become an effective practitioner with the most chronic and complex problems that ordinarily induce despair. How to discern hope in dire situations. How to spot nuggets of gold in conversations that lift the atmosphere. What to look for when a conversation seems negative or hopeless. Move conversations quickly from problem-saturated to problem-solving.

Exceptions. How to turn seemingly small initiatives into substantive developments from which problem solving skills emerge that can move past those ‘revolving-door’ situations

De-centred practice. How to develop collaborative and respectful ways of relating to clients that makes them the expert on their lives and honours the skills, experience, knowledge and significant relationships of the people who come to meet with us.

Re-authoring lives. How to use any piece of information to identify a person’s strong values.  How to connect these with other events and figures in people’s lives to clarify a sense of identity so that entirely new perspectives are possible.

Question structures. How to structure conversations: maps to guide conversations; questions that can rescue conversational cul de-sacs; questions that avoid those “yes, but…” replies; question structures that have profound effects on a person’s thinking; questions that make small improvements much bigger; ways to respond when someone says “I don’t know”; questions that consistently move conversations forward; how to understand conversations so that you’re never stuck for a question; how to chart conversations that reveal where and why they got stuck.

Norms and power. How to question taken for granted norms and integrate an ethical approach with brief practice. Understand Michel Foucault’s critique of cultural norms and how they affect all our lives. How to discern and appreciate the power of these norms without getting captured by them. How to use language to avoid applying norms to people’s lives.

Wider contexts. How to take account and make visible the wider social, economic, cultural and political contexts of people’s lives

Outsider Witnessing. How to provide moving and powerful acknowledgements of people that unstick them from repetitive processes. How to use imagery to evoke strong and positive feelings.

Writing Letters and Documents. How to write simple letters that have powerful therapeutic effects and get changes widely recognised.

Re-membering Conversations. How to use memories to support people in the present. How to bring figures from the past or mythical characters to life as co-therapists.

3 thoughts on “Training to be a Narrative Therapist

  • December 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Hello Cat
    Just found your piece on narrative therapy. Such a powerful tool – I focused on this at end of my counselling training and also did a course afterwards – invaluable in working with people whose storied experience is a negative one and of course for ourselves also. I wish you well in your work/play

    Shirley Whalley

  • January 7, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    hi,had a paper published in 1995 British Journal of Psychotherapy titled “Problems with transference interpretations in short-term psychodynamic therapy” trying to encourage therapists to use the characters and stories patients bring rather than transpose them into the patient-therapist relationship,hope you might be interested,best mark.(retired consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy)

  • January 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Mark! Thank you for this. You will be interested in my new Red Energy project… See the new tab on this site!

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