This paper is aimed at exploring key professional techniques used in today’s narrative therapy while understanding the purpose of each. This paper starts with defining the research question and explaining the research methodology used for answering the research question. Then it proceeds to presenting the literature review of the sources searched. In the same literature review, the answer to the research question is presented while citing the sources; however, the answer is not declared as the answer to the research question in the literature review. Findings of the research are presented after the literature review in which the major findings of the research are described briefly which are followed by discussion on the research question. In the discussion part, the research question is reiterated, and the answer to it is presented from the literature review. The paper is concluded with a brief conclusion and reference list of the sources used in this paper in the end.
The research question for this report is chosen as “What are the key professional techniques involved with the practice of narrative therapy and why are these used?”
The research conducted in this paper is conceptual in nature since the existing narrative theory and its key professional techniques are explored in this report. Several sources including books from experts of narrative therapy were consulted during the research to understand various techniques used in today’s form of narrative therapy. Various sources searched through Library Catalogue, and Google Scholar were used in during the research. The search terms used for searching content in Library Catalogue, and Google Scholar included narrative therapy, techniques of narrative therapy, modern narrative therapy, origins of narrative therapy, examples of narrative therapy techniques, limitations of narrative therapy techniques, and advantages of narrative therapy techniques. Variously published books were also consulted which form most of the part of the literature review presented in the nest section of this report.
According to Jill Freedman (1996), Narrative Therapy is a concept first established by David Epston and Michael White. Narrative Therapy is a common method of psychotherapy that tries to detach the person (affected) from the problem rather than considering the person as a patient. It is practiced as an arrangement of communal work and therapy and inspires people to trust their own skillfulness while minimizing the existing problem of their lives. Narrative Therapy holds the beliefs that the identity of a person is formed as a result of his/her narratives and experiences in life. A therapist simply help a person to externalize his/her issues since the issues faced by the person are comprehended as separate entities by the individual. This concept dissipates defenses and resistance and enables the individual to address the issues in a better way .
According to White (2007), at the basics of narrative therapy lies the concept that the problem is distinctly apart and separate from a person. The problem can not be the defining characteristic of a person. The problem is simply something that an individual has and not something that an individual is. The objective of narrative therapy is to change the effects of a problem on a person’s life rather than changing the person completely. Narrative therapy exploits the impact of personal narratives on people to discover the overall life purpose in respect of each individual. Clients are highly encouraged, through the use of cooperative and respectful relationship with the aim to address the issues they are facing that exist within their social, cultural and political storylines. Narrative therapy is not considered as a treatment to a patient rather it is a form of guidance provided to a normal person who is facing some negative impacts of issues in his/her life .
Techniques used in narrative therapy
According to Edward Neukrug (2010), narrative therapy primarily practices the theory of externalizing the beliefs, behavior, values, and ideals. Narrative therapy discovers, what characters these components play in a person’s narrative, and works with that person to rephrase the negative areas that were depicted in these narratives. Through this technique, a person can view the problematic events from a whole new perspective. Despite the fact that the main story remains intact, the dynamics of the character gets shifted. Each element of the story can be easily altered, and manipulated so as to formulate a completely new ending and as a result changing the way of seeing the event by a person. Narratives are considered definitive at the first glance; however, they are fluid and pliable when considered in a narrative therapeutic environment. Each of such narratives is usually multidimensional and most of the times, a client is not aware of some themes, plots, and even some characters till the time the narrative gets completely explored. Each of the techniques used in narrative therapy has its own usages and limitations. Following are the major narrative therapy techniques as presented by Edward Neukrug in his book ‘Counseling Theory and Practice’ (2010) and several other sources found as the result of literature search for this report :-
Scaffolding is a technique that takes a considerable amount of time. It is carried out by identifying unique exceptions and outcomes and building narrative on positive events in the past. White (2007) narrated about the criticality of formulating tasks for the person undergoing therapy that slowly distances him/her from the original problematic story. Over a period of considerable time, White suggested that the person is enabled to move lower level distancing to higher level distancing tasks .
This technique is used for events that do not have much room in terms of positivity like death of a dear one. In such cases, the person is enabled to get out of the trauma and to learn to appreciate other positive things in life while distancing away from the worries of the event. When a person undergoes scaffolding, it is not easy to forget about the negative events right away, so this technique requires a considerable amount of time and usually requires moving from distancing little negative events to large ones. This technique requires much time to show the real effects which are considered as the limitation of this technique .
- Using Therapeutic Documents
With the aim to acknowledge the progress made by the person and describe the change brought in him/her, written documents by the therapists are given to the individual that keep his/her motivation up. In this technique, therapists use various documents that project the progress made by the clients. These documents can be in the form of written letters to clients or certificates of acknowledgement to them about achieving good progress in handling the issues in his/her life. These documents affirm the positive changes in clients’ lives and further encourages them to keep on improving themselves .
This technique is a motivational tool used by narrative therapists that acknowledges the way of thinking of their clients towards their lives. This technique is used on those clients who can encounter the same past issues in their future life. Such issues can be some disturbance in their job, family or other relative to which they have to come across on regular basis. The support given to the clients is helpful in case of recurrence of the event in the clients’ life. This technique is limited by two factors in which one is about the fact that the client reads the document with full interest and the second is that this technique is used in combination with some other technique .
This is an effective narrative therapy technique in which the therapist tries to suppress the negative memories of the client while highlighting the positive ones. Therapists switch the topic of the negative events to a positive one through smooth and non-noticeable manner so as to avoid the person feel that his/her problems are not heard. Re-membering is aimed at reconstructing the clients’ identities through bringing positive events and stories in the front screen while moving the negative one in the back. Through this technique, the clients are enabled to understand and comprehend the meaning of life in a new way. Re-membering enables clients to recall powerful positive events from their past and connect these events to an event going on in their present life while providing a clear roadmap.
This technique is used when a person is seen to be focusing on negative events while forgetting about the positive ones. This technique is limited to the recalling power of the individual about positive events in his/her life. There may be some cases in which the client is unable to recall the positive aspects of events in his/her life or may be unwilling to do so.
- Reflective Teams
In this technique, some individuals who are either past clients of the therapist or the family/friends of the client are taken as the team members of the therapy session. The individuals other than therapist and the client listen to the client along with the therapist and in the end they share what they heard about the situation. White (2007) suggested that a discussion in reflective team can be broken into four major parts during each session: Part one is when the individuals other than client and therapist sit quietly and just observe. Part two is when the same individuals participating in the reflective team introduce themselves while switching places with the client and the therapist and re-state the situation as they had already observed. In the third part, the reflective team switches the places again, and the client and therapist take over their original places. In the last part, the complete reflective team along with the client and the therapist sit together and discuss about certain narratives of the client. In this part it is also discussed that why some areas or questions were neglected in previous parts.
This technique is used in case of a child facing some issues in which the reflective team is the parents of that child. It can also be used for other problems in which the client is required to be given some outside prospective of his/her situation. In this technique, the client may feel insecure in terms of sharing his/her issues with a team of people due to which a person may try to project him/herself as a positive person.
Various other techniques that were identified as a result of research include following:-
Showing Respectful Curiosity, Mystery, and Awe: This technique basically is aimed at giving attention to the client and showing the importance of his life events to him .
Asking Questions: This technique brings the neglected parts of the event to the client’s observation .
Encouraging the Clients to Tell Stories: This technique aims at opening up the clients’ internal issues which were getting worst within him/her .
Externalizing the Issue: This technique is quite common in narrative therapy in which the person is separated from the issue .
Unique Exceptions or Outcomes: In this technique various other outcomes and exceptions are highlighted to the client other than the ones developed by him/her .
The research question was “What are the key professional techniques involved with the practice of narrative therapy and why are these used?” It can be divided into two parts in which the first part is about the key professional techniques used in narrative therapy and the second part is about the purpose of using these techniques. The first part is researched and presented in the literature review in which key professional technique have been described. These key professional techniques as found in the research include following:-
2. Using Therapeutic Documents
4. Reflective Teams
The second part is quite important since it discusses about the reason of using above mentioned narrative therapy techniques. The purpose of each technique is mentioned below:-
1. Scaffolding - This technique is used for events that do not have much room in terms of positivity like death of a dear one .
2. Using Therapeutic Documents - This technique is a motivational tool used by narrative therapists that acknowledges the way of thinking of their clients towards their lives .
3. Re-membering - This technique is used when a person is seen to be focusing on negative events while forgetting about the positive ones.
4. Reflective Teams - This technique is used in case of a child facing some issues in which the reflective team is the parents of that child.
The research conducted to identify key professional techniques used in narrative therapy along with the purpose of each, identified four key professional technique as Scaffolding, Using Therapeutic Documents, Re-membering, and Reflective Teams. Scaffolding is used for events that do not have much room in terms of positivity like death of a dear one etc. In such cases, the person is enabled to get out of the trauma and to learn to appreciate other positive things in life while distancing away from the worries of the event. Therapeutic Documents are a good way of extending support to the clients to enable them develop positive behavior towards life. This technique engages a person beforehand to avoid recurrence of negative behavior by the individual. Re-membering is a simple technique in which the person’s focus is shifted from negative to a positive event in order to minimize the consequences of negative events. Reflective teams are effective in upgrading a person’s way of thinking towards a given situation since the person is out of the situation when observing the individuals participating as the reflective team.
Narrative therapy is an effective psychotherapy which aims at externalizing the problems from an individual. The four key professional techniques identified in this paper can be used in different situations according to the conditions of the client. Narrative therapy is a concept in which the person undergoing the therapy is not considered as a problem rather his/her problems are considered as the main issues that are needed to be resolved. Through developing such understanding the individuals undergoing the therapy do not consider themselves as a patient rather they get positive prospective of the events and situations that left negative impacts in their lives.
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