“The term narrative implies listening to and telling or retelling stories about people and the problems in their lives. In the face of serious and sometimes potentially deadly problems, the idea of hearing or telling stories may seem a trivial pursuit. It is hard to believe that conversations can shape new realities. But they do. The bridges of meaning we build with others help healing developments flourish instead of wither and be forgotten. Language can shape events into narratives of hope.”
Commonly asked questions about Narrative Therapy
People usually come to see me as they are struggling with a problem or an issue of some kind. I know problems can be very overwhelming and all consuming. They can give us powerful messages about what is wrong with us. They can make us feel like failures as we lose touch with our hopes and dreams.
However, I believe that:
THE PROBLEM IS THE PROBLEM AND THE PERSON IS NOT THE PROBLEM
This allows me to, with understanding and compassion, help people step outside of problem stories to see the problem with new eyes and get new ideas about how to address the problem. This new perspective also helps people get clearer about their own values and what really matters to them.
This also allows PREFERRED stories about who you are and what you belief in to thicken and overshadow the problem story.
My particular way of understanding people, relationships and problems are through stories. I base my work on a set of practices called “Narrative Therapy.” I have included links to articles explaining more about these practices and understandings in case you want to know more.
In my work with people, I ask lots of questions!! My hope is not to leave people feeling interrogated but rather awaken their sense of curiosity about themselves. People often say to me “Wow, I’ve never thought about that before.” I love those moments!!
I think we are continually developing and redeveloping our sense of who we are and what matters to us in life. People often say to me that they do not feel like themselves or they do not know who they are anymore. I see part of the therapy process as an identity project. We explore together what people are looking for, where they came from and what they believe in. This helps develop some ideas and possibilities for the future that fits with peoples hopes and dreams. People can stand more firmly in their preferred sense of who they are and what matters to them.
I do not have fixed ideas about the structure of our work together. I am open to collaboration on how we set up the sessions, timing, and figuring out what works for each person, couple or family. I have lots of ideas about what might work but always check in to see how people and feeling and I like lots of feedback.
Some examples of creative therapy:
I usually write my session notes in the form of a letter to the client that I either send them between sessions or read out to them at the beginning of the next session. People have told me that they really appreciated these letters as it reminds them of what we talked about, gives them more questions to ponder and is a written document charting the progress they have made. SEE EXAMPLE
I find that many people find it very useful for me to use a whiteboard as we are talking. I write down key words and phrases that people say so that we do not lose them. These visual words really help us thicken stories up and help people to really see with a new perspective. SEE EXAMPLE
Art / images
Some people love incorporating images into the therapy process and I am open to exploring that in lots of different ways. Other people are very intimidated by the idea of creating art so I don’t always go in this direction but sometimes I help people find ways to use art or images in ways that fit for them. For example, I worked with one man who did not like creative art stuff at all but he had some ideas about what some of his experiences of emotion might look like. He ended up bringing me some beautiful photos he had taken with names like “ANXIETY” “HOPE” and “LOVE” His images for hope has stayed with me as it was such a beautiful mountain scene.
I hear such amazing stories of pain, suffering, beauty and hope. I feel so privileged and honoured to be able to witness people’s stories. I know that witnessing is a powerful project so I often bring in others to act as witnesses alongside of me. Sometimes, this is in the form of actual people. For instance, I was working with a man and he was looking for ways to not step into anger so easily and so quickly. His wife came in for his final session for me and listened to him tell his stories of what he had learned about himself and was hoping to practice. She was then asked questions about what she heard and what it meant to her to hear him make these commitments to her. We wrote this up together. Not as a set of rules but rather as a set of hopes and commitments that they could use as reminders in their relationship.
Often witnesses in my work with people do not have to be actual bodies in the room with us. I use questions like: “If your mom was here with us today, what might she say about these steps you have taken?” “Who in your life would appreciate these intentions that you hold?”