The Narrative Metaphor

In this chapter we examine how stories are an important frame through which we make meaning of our lives. In each reading and video provided we invite you to be on the lookout for the multi-stories of people’s lives rather than a single story.

Photo: Shaun Tan: Eric (with permission)


This dot exercise from Jill Freedman and Gene Combs was animated by Will Sherwin to help you visualise the Narrative Therapy concept of ‘multi-storied lives’.


For more from Jill and Gene you can go to

For more from Will Sherwin and Bay Area Narrative Therapy Resource, trainings and radio shows you can go to



Novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. In ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ she speaks about how our lives and our cultures are composed of many overlapping stories.



We have included here an extract from Alice Morgan’s influential and highly popular text in which she provides a brief introduction to the narrative metaphor

What is Narrative Therapy – An Easy to Read Introduction | Alice Morgan



In this short extract Michael White’s speaks about the possibilities that the narrative metaphor opened up in his therapeutic work, what attracted him to the narrative metaphor and offers an example of how the narrative metaphor shapes therapeutic conversations.

The narrative metaphor in family therapy | an interview with Michael White


What is the narrative of our lives – and can we influence the way our story is told? Michael White and Barbara Brooks, a memoir writer, join producer Gretchen Miller in conversation on ABC Radio National and online. Michael and Barbara joined Gretchen Miller to talk about the grand narratives of our lives and how much influence we have over the way our story unfolds

The Power of Storytelling


This (draft) Charter proposes a framework for considering storytelling rights. We hope it will spark discussions about the rights of people who have experienced trauma/social suffering in relation to how their stories are told and received.

Narrative Therapy (Draft) Charter of Story-Telling Rights by David Denborough

Article 1  Everyone has the right to define their experiences and problems in their own words and terms.

Article 2  Everyone has the right for their life to be understood in the context of what they have been through and in the context of their relationships with others.

Article 3  Everyone has the right to invite others who are important to them to be involved in the process of reclaiming their life from the effects of trauma.

Article 4 Everyone has the right to be free from having problems caused by trauma and injustice located inside them, internally, as if there is some deficit in them. The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem.

Article 5 Everyone has the right for their responses to trauma to be acknowledged. No one is a passive recipient of trauma. People always respond. People always protest injustice.

Article 6  Everyone has the right to have their skills and knowledges of survival respected, honoured and acknowledged.

Article 7  Everyone has the right to know and experience that what they have learnt through hardship can make a contribution to others in similar situations.



Photo: Shaun Tan: Eric

For Reflection 


How would you describe the narrative metaphor?


What might thinking about stories in this way make possible for you?



Please now share your thoughts & reflections below and then continue to the next chapter! Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks! 

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  1. Kirsty

    The narrative metaphor is about finding the alternative stories, which give us a wider understanding of people and their meaning. What’s important to them, then and now? Individual stories should also be viewed in the context of wider experiential, societal and cultural factors.
    As an educational psychologist, the narrative metaphor will enable me to think about the questions I ask and whether or not I am trying to fit people into a pre-existing mould without meaning to do so. It will make me reflect on what information I pick up on in my consultations. Do I seek confirmation bias about something I already know, or do I allow the alternative story to be heard?
    It will enable my conversations to be more hopeful as I examine a different/ alternative story. It can enable others to have a sense of choice and autonomy about which stories they want others to hear
    This made me reflect on my two EP roles, as an EP in a LA, the story I write about a person (in a report) often reflects the oppressive system around access to resources. I portray the dominant story around ‘difficulty’ as this will enable to CYP to access funding and resources. In my work as an EP in a special school, I can portray a different story, one which is more meaningful (to CYP, family, school) and one that may have been missed, or may be more positive). In my work at the school where I have more time and were I am less constrained by the system, I can ‘thicken the story’ to provide a more holistic, varied picture

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