What is narrative therapy?

Posted by on Jun 18, 2018 in Uncategorised | 8 comments

Sharing stories in ways that make us stronger

Narrative approaches to therapy and community work are vitally interested in the stories of people’s lives, and how stories can be told in ways that make people stronger.

It is possible for counsellors to invite people to tell and re-tell stories in ways that can offer hope and healing. With the use of narrative practices, we seek to honour and acknowledge the stories of hardship and loss that people have experienced. And at the same time, we make it possible for people to tell other stories of their lives as well, stories that bring strength and possibilities.

As Kaurna Elder and narrative therapist Aunty Barbara Wingard describes, 'We assist people to tell our stories in ways that make us stronger'.

Aunty Barbara Wingard

Aunty Barbara describes how stories are so important and people are the experts of their own lives.

What is narrative therapy?

Here is a very quick response to the question: What is narrative therapy? 

The danger of a single story 

Novelist Chimamanda Adichie warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding. 

Listening for more than one story: Strengthening resistance

As Chimimanda Adichie describes, it's  important to move beyond the single story. This is what narrative therapists and community workers do in our work. We listen for more than one story.

This extract is from a workshop held in Rwanda with counsellors who are all themselves survivors of the 1994 genocide.

Strengthening Resistance

Aunty Barbara Wingard

Telling stories in ways that make us stronger.


  1. I found the reading “Listening for more than one story” particularly interesting and very practical. I like the idea of making a list of the effects of the trauma in order to demonstrate that these issues do not define the individual but instead are effects of the trauma they have experienced. On the flip side making a list of the stories of resistance/healing/reclamation is a nice positive way to round it off. Both lists give the counsellor opportunities to explore further with the client. Looking forward to implementing this into my practice.

  2. I believe in this so much… that we are our own experts in our stories by telling our stories we empower ourselves in a culturally appropriate/safe way and is really important for our people to be heard.

  3. The exercise of telling our story is political, and has a sense of justice. Returns the ability to have control over life and its course. It is a very powerful exercise and necessary mainly in cases where there has been abuse. I find the material presented in this course very beautiful and useful.

  4. Thanks for sharing. It is a lovely thought, that a story is told then retold in a positive and stronger way that builds.

  5. The power of the written story read back in the person’s own words. No assumptions or interpretations – just written as it was said.

  6. I love this stuff – it’s standing up to and challenging the predominant voice of colonisation that we all too easily wear inside whether we like it or not

  7. Even though my story remains part of my lives, my lived experience, I don’t have to live out or from the ‘old’ pain story, I can create a new story encompassing the strengths and learnings from my lived experience. Once I create the new story that facilitates healing opportunity I can then practice living out that new story until it becomes the dominant story line and the ‘old’ story gradually has less influence in my life.

  8. I think we do the same thing with individuals who have heard voices. We tell one story, we give them one label and when they try to tell theirs we say they are “delusional”. It’s important to hear everyone’s story and what they are experiencing in their own words.

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