This section highlights the historical influences on Narrative therapy as well as the more contemporary ideas that contribute to its ongoing development.

Narrative worldview from the Evanston Family Therapy Center

Narrative and Post-Structural Theory The notes on this page are taken from handouts that Jill and Gene have used in their workshops over the years. Please feel free to use them and circulate them, as long as you are careful to credit the source.


Consilience: the linking together of principles from different disciplines especially when forming a comprehensive theory. Sarah Hughes just came back from the Winds of Change conference in Toronto – a gathering that focused using innovative approaches in our work based on neurobiology ideas. In a conversation on “What intrigues you about narrative therapy?” she posted how “Consilience” has become the word of the week. The idea of linking different ideas under a common umbrella is Read More

Narrative therapy & Post-structuralist inquiry

Postmodern Therapies In a special issue of the Journal of Systemic Therapies on Teaching and Learning Postmodern Therapies (Vol 25 -Issue 4), the editors, David Paré and Margarita Tarragona contemplate pedagogical questions for teachers and trainers of postmodern therapies that “share a respectful, collaborative spirit that reflects a loosened grip on truth claims and purported expertise” (Paré & Tarragona, 2006), p.2). They describe postmodern epistemologies as “reminding us that knowledge is not so much handed Read More

The narrative metaphor in current times

Narrative therapy and post-structuralist inquiry

On the Evanston Family Therapy Center website, Jill Freedman and Gene Combs generously share notes  taken from handouts that they have used in their workshops over the years.  They include a few pertinent assumptions of the narrative approach, characteristics of the Narrative Worldview, distinctions between structuralism and Post-Structuralism as applied to therapy  (Narrative therapy is a post-structuralist therapy), a glimpse at the day-to-day work of narrative therapy, and some questions pertaining to ethics from a narrative Read More

Postmodernism, post-structuralist inquiry, and the French Poststructuralist Philosophers

As a cultural phenomenon, postmodernism impacts the fields of philosophy, architecture, literature, music and other expressive arts. Many narrative practitioners prefer the more specific term poststructuralism to describe an approach to inquiry that questions the concept of “self” as a singular and coherent entity, and is in contrast to structuralism’s truth claims. I sometimes use the umbrella terms “postmodern” or “collaborative” therapies as an effort to unify a diversity of approaches – not to obscure Read More

Characteristics of narrative ways of working

Jill Freedman and Gene Combs have been teaching and practicing narrative therapy for many years. They are the co-founders of The Evanston Family Therapy Center where they provide consultation and workshops for people interested in exploring the practice of narrative therapy for individuals, families, institutions, and communities. On their website, they post a number of excellent responses to the question, “What is Narrative Therapy?” These notes are taken from workshop handouts. Feel free to use these notes Read More

Chris Beels: A different story

I’ve been a Chris Beels fan ever since reading his 2001 book, A Different Story…: The rise of narrative in psychotherapy. This book is really a memoir, telling the story of the rise of the influence of narrative therapy from the perspective of a psychiatrist with a breadth of experience. Whenever possible, I have also assigned this book, along with Lynn Hoffman’s excellent 2002 memoir Family Therapy: An intimate history to social work and psychology Read More

‘The relational being: Beyond self & community’

by Ken Gergen Recommended  by Sonja Bar-Am.

Masters of narrative and collaborative therapies: The voices of Andersen, Anderson, and White

Tapio Malinen, Scot J. Cooper and Frank N. Thomas (eds) Recommended by Peggy Sax. This book, published by Routledge, is a very engaging read. You can learn more including downloading a free chapter here.

‘Narrative Therapy’

by Stephen Madigan Recommended by Peggy Sax.  Stephen Madigan’s book and companion DVD, “Narrative Therapy” are published through APA (American Psychological Association) and can be ordered through Amazon.

‘Praxis: situating discourse, feminism and politics in Narrative Therapies’

ed., Stephen Madigan and Ian Law Reviewed by Sonja: This is an old text – but fantastic intersections of theory and practice esp. michael white and Foucoult If you contact Dulwich , there are copies of this.  

Maggie Carey: The narrative metaphor in current times

Keynote at the second European conference for Narrative Therapy, held in Copenhagen August 2012.  

The danger of the single story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.  

‘Intimacy and alienation’ by Russell Meares

Recommended reading by Martha Lopez.

The dot exercise

Jill Freedman & Gene Combs (Evanston Family Therapy Center) show through a simple dot picture how the process of questioning can lead to the development of multiple storylines that open  possibilities for people’s lives.     Click here to download a pdf of the dot exercise. 

The neurons that shaped civilization (TED talk)