Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends
This book presents a respectful, often playful approach to serious problems, with groundbreaking theory as a backdrop. The authors start with the assumption that people experience problems when the ...
This book presents a respectful, often playful approach to serious problems, with groundbreaking theory as a backdrop. The authors start with the assumption that people experience problems when the stories of their lives, as they or others have invented them, do not sufficiently represent their lived experience. Therapy then becomes a process of storying or re-storying the lives and experiences of these people. In this way narrative comes to play a central role in therapy.
In the early chapters Michael White, drawing upon the theories of Michel Foucault, presents some ideas about therapy: that if, as Foucault contends, power and knowledge are inseparable, then therapists are unable to take a benign view of their practices, which are, indeed, inevitably political; that externalization of the problem assists persons in identification of and separation from unitary knowledges and "truth" discourses that are subjugating them; that unique outcomes can be identified and investigated as evidence of defiance of the power of the problem; and that the identification and provision of space for the performance of alternative, previously neglected or subjugated knowledges is central to the therapeutic endeavor.
White's "externalizing the problem" is a major theoretical and clinical innovation in family therapy. Once the problem is clearly separated from the person, one can look at the interaction of people and problems, asking such crucial questions as: Is the problem gaining more influence over the person or is the person gaining more influence over the problem?
Both authors share delightful examples of a storied therapy that privileges a person's lived experience, inviting a reflexive posture and encouraging a sense of authorship and reauthorship of one's experiences and relationships in the telling and retelling of one's story. In this therapy narrative forms, particularly letters, documents, and certificates, become the means by which the person redefines the relationship with the problem. Letters are used to invite family members to ally against an oppressive trauma, to inform all concerned about a child's victory over mischief, to summarize therapeutic progress and to predict future success, to celebrate the taming of fears, to declare independence from the tyranny of homework - in short, to externalize, raise questions about, and gain power/knowledge over problems. Thus narrative means lead to therapeutic - and liberating - ends.
- WHITE Michael, EPSTON David
- Short therapies