Have you reviewed our first lesson here?

  • We begin by briefly describing narrative therapy and what makes this approach distinct from other approaches.
  • We honor the legacy of Michael White (Australia) and David Epston (New Zealand) the founders of Narrative therapy with special added remembrances to Michael who died in April, 2008.
  • Michael’s close colleagues – Maggie Carey, Rob Hall & Shona Russell – reflect on  the practices that make up the narrative approach, and their commitment to carry forth Michael White’s intentions.

After reviewing the topics in this lesson,  please join us here. You can respond to the already posted questions, and/or begin your own topics..

Peggy Sax

Peggy Sax

Hey, I want to open this space for conversation about the foundations for narrative therapy. Several of us began this conversation on the webinar yesterday. I haven’t had time to review the recording, so can we continue here instead?

– What are your reflections after reviewing Lesson one?
– what draws us to narrative ways of working?
– What kind of obstacles and/or concerns do you carry/ face?

Let’s see if we can bring this conversation online!

Bryna Andressen

Bryna Andressen

I just started the Foundations and Key Concepts online course. I wonder if anyone else has just begun recently too.

In answer to one of the questions above… I’m drawn to Narrative Therapy because I find it to be a hopeful way of working. It helps me to stay curious and energized to focus on people’s identity and value separate from the problems that may have been influencing their life for a very long time. I also appreciate that it allows people to define things like health, recovery, and relationships in their own ways.

People often ask me the question “What is Narrative Therapy?” when they hear that I practice this approach. I often find it’s difficult to sum it all up in a satisfying “elevator speech” comment… I want to get better at this, so I can share more of why this approach is important in my work, and how it combines so well with the expressive arts approaches that I use.

Peggy-Sax 2Hi Bryna!

First of all – a hearty welcome! I remember well the time we spent together in Vancouver a few years ago, and our connection through Shoshona Simons. I’m so glad you decided to join us. Sorry the timing happened to be when we were experiencing some significant techno difficulties. Hopefully (fingers crossed) we are back in good shape.

Any chance you can join the live conversation via Zoom next Sunday (it would be 3pm Vancouver time)? You’ll meet some others who are also taking the online course at the same time. Let me know and I’ll add you to the invitation list (others too).

re how to briefly describe narrative therapy. Good question! I recently worked on updating some public pages under the “about” tab on the main reauthoringteaching.com menu. Then…I discovered last week that their accessibility was blocked…but hopefully now fixed… Can you tell me if you can access them, and if they are included in this lesson (I can’t remember).
What is narrative Therapy?
Michael White
David Epston

How else do others respond to the question, What is narrative therapy?




Hi Bryna and everyone,

Ok, I’ll take the ‘elevator’ ride… :-) But, I’m curious how others here would sum up Narrative Practices? Here is mine…

One Narrative Therapy ‘Elevator’ Summary:

Narrative Therapy, often called Narrative Practice, uses specific kinds of Listening and Inquiring through which a person can make clearer personal sense-making of perplexing problems and entertain surprising possibilities. NT/NP keeps the person in the foreground as the explorer, meaning-maker, and author/re-authorer of his/her life. The therapist’s ideas etc. are minimal to absent, but the person’s thinking/feelings become very ‘central’. Experiencing a therapist being decentered somehow (‘mysteriously’) creates a feeling of being more ‘centered’ as the person brings forth her own self-knowledges. Though Externalization seems most easily remembered from readings/doings, it is but one type of Inquiry–and though helpful, it is perhaps NOT the most important type of inquiry used. Narrative Inquiries can range from broad but pointed; narrow but smooth; precise but yet almost tipping up on end many taken-for-granted ideas/feelings, before unsettling a person’s thinking toward newly discovered personal self-knowledges. Narrative Inquiries swiftly bring new understanding about traumas with the least amount of retraumatizing ‘pain’; traumas become ‘decentered ouches’ rather than a reocurring trauma story with triggers. At times inquiries can feel rather jarring, but the resulting common-sense and personal sense-making feels refreshingly new! Yet somehow it is as if the ‘sense’ and self awareness was always known or what the person sought for a long time to ‘know with certainty’. NT garners a person’s sense of personal justice, morality, clarity, self-commitment, imagination, creativity (and more), and opens space for desires for community involvement and fulfillment of actions in life that could only be dreamed and hoped for, but never fully realized before.

I’m curious to hear how others might define Narrative Practices?


  • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by Profile photo of Judy Florian Judy Florian. Reason: spacing problem
Laurie Markham

Laurie Markham

Hi Bryna,

Welcome to the site! I appreciate your question. My name is Laurie, and I work as a Narrative practitioner in a medical setting. When folks come to see me for the first time, they have often been primed to ask for a specific therapy, usually it’s CBT. When I tell them I work from a Narrative perspective instead, I sometimes offer a brief description of how Narrative differs from traditional approaches. But lately I’ve been experimenting with offering a description of Narrative specific to the context of their lives. This works especially well when a question like, “How are you going to help?” or “Do you do CBT?” is posed near the end of an initial meeting. It gives me a chance to check out my understanding of the problem or dilemma and to speak to some of the ways we might take it on (or might have already been taking it on) from a Narrative viewpoint. I sometimes end up highlighting examples of insider knowledge that I’ve collected during our meeting and then speak to the value they’ve placed on it.

Just recently, I met with a woman who is experiencing a debilitating fear of illness, despite being in good health. (Fear entered her life with the birth of her second child. There was a complication and the mother almost died. Although she came through just fine, Fear has kept her on high alert ever since.) During the course of our initial meeting, I came to learn that this is not the first time she has dealt with Fear. Some years ago, Fear prevented her from flying. However, when her husband won a trip to Hawaii, she decided that she would not let Fear stop her from going on the trip. When I asked her how she faced it down, she told me a long story about her belief in angels and an ability she has to manifest them in times of distress. When the plane was about to leave the runway, she imagined her neighbor, a lovely woman who had lost her battle with breast cancer, sitting on the wing of the plan and assuring her that everything would be alright. When we got to the end of our meeting, she asked me, “Will you be teaching me relaxation techniques?” Apparently, the physician who referred her for therapy told her that relaxation techniques were the answer to overcoming anxiety. While still leaving room for the possibility that relaxation techniques might be of some benefit (although I would not be teaching them), I summarized her story about what she had already achieved in her relationship with Fear (in the context of flying) and speculated about how her connection to angels, or other skills/knowledge that she possesses, which we might discover through our work together, might prove of greater value as she prepares to take on Fear in the context of illness. I find that making any point about Narrative, whether it’s about the value of insider knowledge, externalizing problems, learning more about a person’s values or preferences, etc. is best made when it can be situated in the ‘asker’s’ specific experience.

When I’m asked the question, “What is Narrative therapy?” outside of the therapy room (e.g., by colleagues or friends), I’ve also been experimenting with grounding my description in a particular example or scenario. I might think of a story about my work with a specific person to relay a point about what Narrative is or isn’t, what it’s interested in and what it’s not, etc. Of course, living in a time when people are primed to request not insider but outsider/expert knowledge, especially in a medical setting, trying to preserve Narrative values is a challenge.


Bryna Andressen

Bryna Andressen

Lots of things to think about here… Thanks for responding to my question! Ah! It makes sense to situate the answer to the question “What is Narrative Therapy” in a context of the asker’s experience with a specific example… This approach would apply if I’m talking with another counsellor who isn’t familiar with Narrative approaches, or with clients who are wondering how I work, or friends who are interested too…

Some little phrases come to mind when I think about the essence of Narrative Therapy…
Poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “The story of our lives / becomes our lives.” And I really like a phrase in David Denborough’s writing: “…telling our stories in ways that make us stronger.”

Danielle Spletter (Narrative Practices Adelaide Certificate Programme: March 6, 2014

What are my ideas about Narrative Therapy thus far?

My experience of Narrative therapy thus far is that it is about- tapping into our lives as how they should be seen, multistoried! not summed up by a problem saturated dominate story. Narrative therapy is about the skillful use of language and enquiry questions being posed to clients by the therapist to make alternative stories more visible. The use of language needs to be meaningful to the person in their context.

I am looking forward to popping on my investigative/detective hat as opposed to a burdensome expert centred position that is not all that helpful.

Sarah Hughes: March 14, 2014

Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Hello Danielle,
I think you did a very nice sum up of narrative ideas right there in so few words. I am curious as to whether you have tried popping that hat on? And how did it feel? Was it a good fit?

I know it is a good fit for me. Although that other, burdensome one, does show up at times and try to lure me over to its position. For me,, it is a body feeling, like being uncomfortable, something not fitting quite right kind of feeling, that makes me notice I have slipped away from where I want to be. Then I am able to get more curious again.

How do you – or anyone – notice when you have moved more toward the expert position?