Narrative Therapy: Creating an Intentional Story
The way we organize our thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, and experiences though our language choices and story shape our narrative about our self and the world around. From this belief, our realities are constructed through our language. One use of narrative therapy in a therapeutic relationship is to help create an intentional story.
At the core of narrative therapy is the explicit understanding of the client as the expert on their own life. From this frame, my clients and I are invited to work collaboratively while leaning into each other's strengths- my client's deep wisdom about themselves and my role as a participatory witness. To be a participatory witness is to actively operate within the safety and the space co-created by my clients and myself. In this way, my interventions are motivated by a desire to help both of us further understand, never to "fix."
When someone stands as an active and loving witness as we tell our story, go on a rant, or off on a tangent we are able to see our thoughts and feelings take shape in the form of words and sentences. Leaning into the safety of the therapeutic relationship we can begin to ask curious questions about the meaning behind and created by language choices. The aim is not to invalidate or correct language choices. Rather, to explore the meaning and motivations surrounding choices and explore whether there might be other options that are more descriptive, empowering, inclusive, or expansive. We might ask:
"What do you want this story to mean?"
"Is that how you truly want to describe that event?"
"What might be left out in describing him that way?"
"What words could we add to capture the entire experience?"
Exploring language choices and alternatives can help foster deeper insight and facilitate healing. I have seen clients move from: victims to survivors and thrivers, fearful to empowered, accidents and screw-ups to valuable opportunities to learn and grow, and from "the-world-is-against-me" to radically kind shifts in worldviews.