Narrative Therapy: Separating the Individual From the Issue

Addiction Recovery Publishing Holistic Therapy June 5, 2023

Narrative Therapy: Separating the Individual From the Issue

Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that sees the individual as separate from their issues. Through this approach, a person can find clarity and new perspectives on the way their challenges may be helping them. This form of therapy helps individuals “rewrite” their own narrative, find who they really are, and heal at the core root level. 

What Is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy provides a way for individuals to gain insight into themselves and their lives. It looks at problems as separate from the individual. This approach highlights the skills, values, and abilities that can help them change the way their issues affect their lives. 

Sometimes, the term “narrative therapy” is used to describe a way of understanding a person’s identity. Other times, it can be used in reference to understanding problems and the effect they have on the lives of individuals. Narrative therapy aims to be a non-blaming approach and highlights the idea of being an expert in your own life. 

At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, our team provides a diverse range of therapies, including mindfulness therapy and narrative therapy. Our individualized programs take into account each individual’s unique needs, goals, and stories.

What Is a Narrative?

The word “narrative” refers to a story. A person has stories about themselves, the people around them, their abilities, and their experiences. 

It is natural that these stories and experiences are interpreted in different ways. The way they are interpreted can give them more meaning and help a person make sense of everything. Multiple narratives can be at work at one time. Moreover, interpretations of these narratives can affect the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. 

While narratives can be beneficial, others can lead to distress and destructive behaviors. When negative, unhealthy, or misinterpreted narratives are at work, it can make daily life difficult. 

What Is the History of Narrative Therapy?

Originally, narrative therapy was developed by therapists Michael White and David Epston. They aimed to create an approach that was non-blaming, non-pathological, empowering, and collaborative. White and Epston centered the concept of narrative therapy around three main ideas:

  • Individuals are treated with respect 
  • People are not to blame for their problems or life challenges
  • The therapist sees the individual as the expert in their own life

What Are Narrative Therapy Techniques?

A wide range of exercises and techniques are used in narrative therapy to help heal. Some of the most common narrative therapy techniques can include:

  • Externalization: Learning to separate and create distance between the individual and their problems. Doing this can help people identify and address ways to change unhealthy behaviors. 
  • Deconstruction: Breaking down, or deconstructing, a person’s life story into smaller parts can help make confronting problems seem more possible and manageable. 
  • Piecing together your narrative: Through processing and exploration, a person can learn more about themselves, the events that have taken place in their lives, and the meanings they associate with them. By doing this, a person can help identify parts of the story that stand out and may need help healing from.

How It Works

In narrative therapy, the therapist does not simply treat the individual. The therapist works with them to heal and help them redefine their life and who they are. According to Nursing Research and Practice, mental health professionals need to know the person through their narratives and stories and “comprehend their social contexts” so they can best provide holistic care. 

The therapist works closely with the individual to help them understand how their challenges are part of their stories. As each person goes through life with unique experiences, they become meaningful and impact the way you see yourself and the world around you. 

When you tell your own story, a narrative therapist can help you break down these narratives, identify challenges and problems, and help build alternative stories. In identifying these alternative stories, a person can rewrite their life. Through narrative therapy, there are endless possibilities for things that seem unchangeable and weigh down on a person. It is with this knowledge that the narrative therapist helps the individual understand that their problems are not their identity. 

How Can Narrative Therapy Help?

A narrative therapist helps individuals be an expert in their own lives. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we are not focused on simply providing treatment; we promote healing at the core root level. Narrative therapy helps individuals heal what is really going on inside. 

As humans go through life experiences, some of those stories become more dominant and can cause challenges in our lives because of the way we interpret them. Through narrative therapy, a person can learn to look at these events and challenges in different ways and recognize that their problems are not their identity. 

Who Can Narrative Therapy Help?

Individuals of all ages can benefit from narrative therapy. Often, people blame themselves for their problems or feel that their lives are taken over by their challenges. Narrative therapy can help individuals who may be diagnosed with the following:

Narrative therapy is often used for individuals but can also be helpful for couples and families. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab helps individuals heal from a variety of different mental health conditions and SUDs. 

Can Narrative Therapy Help Those With Trauma?

Narrative therapy can be an approach used to help heal individuals with trauma. Trauma can result from harmful or life-threatening experiences. Going through traumatic events can cause both short- and long-term effects on a person’s life and can make it hard to think, recall or talk about the past. However, with narrative therapy, the therapist can help you work through this trauma and find new clarity and understanding. 

By identifying the dominant narratives in your life and recognizing how they have impacted you, a person can find healing from these events by gaining new perspectives. When used for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it is also referred to as narrative exposure therapy. 

For individuals with PTSD or other trauma, narrative therapy can help them find context and tell their life stories to piece together the events that occurred in their lives. Building this context can also help the person associate new meanings with these events and help them learn not to blame themselves and separate themselves from their challenges.

What Is an Example of Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is unique to the individual, but one way to understand the idea is by thinking of someone who may have SUD. They would talk with their therapist and tell their story from the beginning. These stories may include:

  • Their upbringing
  • Experiences at school or work
  • Relationships
  • Cultural and religious belief
  • Any other external factors

Someone with SUD may have had a difficult childhood, faced challenges in school or work, or have been in unhealthy relationships. They might blame themselves for problems that were out of their control. With narrative therapy, the person learns to separate themselves from their problems and understand that humans make mistakes and that they are not the problem.

Through these stories, the narrative therapist and individual can work together and identify dominant stories and understand the way they have interpreted the events that have happened in their life. They can learn to rewrite their stories and find new meanings for their experiences. The insight they gain can help them change the way they see themselves and see the world and change unhealthy or destructive behavior and thought processes. 

What Are the Benefits of Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a unique therapeutic approach that comes with many benefits, including:

  • Respect: Narrative therapy is based not only on respect between the therapist and the individual but respect for oneself. In narrative therapy, the therapist and the individual are seen as equal. They are not there to tell the person what to do but rather there to help guide them and ask them questions that help them learn more about themselves. The therapist recognizes the individual as an expert in their own life and is there for support and guidance. 
  • Self-awareness: The idea of self-awareness is centered around the understanding of the things that make a person who they are. It involves the ability to think clearly about yourself, your behaviors, values, passions, and other parts of you as an individual. With narrative therapy, a person can gain not only more clarity but also a greater appreciation for themselves and their abilities. 
  • Empowerment: Through narrative therapy, a person can feel empowered to rewrite their own story. They learn to recognize their strengths and abilities and can take control over their lives and how things affect them. 
  • Compassion: Narrative therapy promotes compassion between the therapist and individual, but also having compassion for oneself. With narrative therapy, it is understood that humans make mistakes and that your problems don’t define who you are. Narrative therapy can teach a person to have compassion for themselves and be forgiving and graceful, not shameful. 
  • Non-blaming: So often, people blame themselves for the things that have happened to them, even in times when it is out of their control. Narrative therapy does not blame the individual for their problems but rather teaches the person how to separate their problems from their identity. 

Is There Criticism of Narrative Therapy?

One of the biggest criticisms of narrative therapy is that it could be unreliable if the individual is not telling the truth or leaving out parts of their story. Sometimes, a person may tell their story and either consciously or subconsciously leave out important parts. Some people may see this as a downside of narrative therapy because then the therapist can’t provide the right help if they are not given all the information. However, the therapist is there to help clients work through these things and help them realize when or why they may be leaving certain parts out, and help them open up. 

Additionally, narrative therapy is a relatively newer therapeutic approach, so more research and scientific evidence are needed to assess its effectiveness. However, at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we are focused on healing from the inside out. Many individuals have found narrative therapy to be an effective and empowering approach to long-lasting healing.  

What Is the Goal of Narrative Therapy?

The goal of narrative therapy is not to change who a person is but rather to change how their life challenges affect them. Narrative therapy also focuses on finding “alternative” stories, rewriting them, and changing them into healthier ones. 

The goal is to separate the individual from the issue so that they can see how their circumstances serve them rather than how they harm them. Since every person’s story is different, each individual has unique goals for themselves as well, but ultimately, the goal of narrative therapy is to help heal and address the core root of problems. 

How Effective Is Narrative Therapy?

Although narrative therapy is a relatively new therapeutic approach, it has proven to be beneficial in helping heal from a variety of different mental health disorders and SUDs for people of many ages and groups. Individuals who have gone through narrative therapy have found improvements in self-awareness, social skills, and decision-making. 

One thing about narrative therapy that makes it more effective and beneficial than other treatment approaches is that it promotes long-term healing. Narrative therapy is not just there to help a person manage their symptoms but helps them learn more about themselves and heal at the core root, which allows them to gain new perspectives and change unhealthy and unwanted behaviors in their life. 

How Is Narrative Therapy Different From Other Psychotherapies?

One of the biggest differences between narrative therapy and other forms of psychotherapy is that it is client-driven. With narrative therapy, the therapist is there to be involved in conversations with the individual to help them understand and learn more about themselves. Even though the past is part of a person’s story, narrative therapy focuses on the present and how to change how a person views themselves and the world around them. 

Narrative therapy is centered around respect and compassion. It doesn’t place blame on the individual for things that have happened in their lives and sees each person as separate from their problems. 

What Is the Role of a Narrative Therapist?

A narrative therapist is there to help the individual find alternative ways of understanding and describing certain narratives. They are there to listen to the individual’s story and collaborate with them while engaging in questions and conversations about their narratives and experiences. 

In narrative therapy, the therapist and the individual are seen as equal. A narrative therapist is not there to judge, blame, or tell the person what to do. Rather, the therapist is there to help the individual uncover things they may not have seen before, interpret events in new ways, and help them rewrite their story. 

How to Find a Narrative Therapist

Narrative therapists are licensed mental health professionals or therapists who have experience and training in narrative therapy. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we are accredited and licensed to treat primary SUDs and mental health disorders. You should always feel comfortable and safe working with your narrative therapist. 

Ask questions, set the goals you want to achieve for yourself, and find a place that truly cares about your healing at the root core level, not just putting a bandaid on it with medication or general treatment approaches. 

That is why our team here is experienced, involved, and passionate about helping you heal at the core root level. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we not only provide various therapies and holistic approaches to healing, but we also do so in a beautiful, motivating, and mindful environment. 

How Does Exclusive Hawaii Rehab Use Narrative Therapy?

At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we use narrative therapy and mindfulness therapy as a holistic approach to addressing the core root of problems. Not only will you learn to be the expert in your own life, but you will also spend your time in an environment that promotes healing from within and immerses you in nature and the beautiful Hawaii setting. 

We are not focused on simply providing treatment; we strive to help you heal from the inside out. Not only do we have naturopathic doctors, but we also have MDs, psychiatrists, around-the-clock nurses, dieticians, and staff that is there to support you and promote healing from every aspect. 

Finding clarity and perspective is essential to healing at the core root level. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provides narrative therapy and many other therapeutic approaches to help individuals separate themselves from their problems and learn that they are not their problems. At Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we provide personalized care catered to each individual’s unique needs. Through a holistic approach, coupled with support from MDs, psychiatrists, dieticians, and much more, a person can find healing at the core root level. We offer expert care where you can become immersed in nature and heal from mental health disorders, substance use disorders (SUDs), and trauma. Call (808) 775-0200 today to learn more about narrative therapy at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab.