Pioneering narrative therapy by White and Epson

narrative therapy appeared. The lead authors and promoters of this therapeutic strain are Michael White and David Epson.

Pioneering narrative therapy by White and Epson
Pioneering narrative therapy by White and Epson

Narrative therapy separates the problem from the person. Find out more about it! In the 1980s, narrative therapy appeared. The lead authors and promoters of this therapeutic strain are Michael White and David Epson.

Some people consider narrative therapy to be articalmodern therapy because White and Epson based some of their approaches on the philosophical assumptions of Michael Foucault. One of the key premises of this therapy is that each person, family, or institution develops its identity from the narratives it creates about various events.

Michael White and David Epson

Australian social worker Michael White and New Zealand anthropologist David Epson teamed up and developed narrative therapy. However, we cannot explain its origins without referring to the works of Gregory Bateson, as well as Maturana and Varel. These authors demonstrated that individuals are never alone and belong to social systems.

The development of systemic therapies was influenced not only by thinking about individuals, but also about their environments. Depending on the situation, they serve the entire family system, some of its members or only individuals.

The more important people were included in the therapy, the more it was shortened and more effective. This has consequently led to the development of various models of rapid therapy.

The problem in question often affects some family members, although they do not feel they are part of it at all. Therefore, it can be said that this conceptual challenge, in which commitment and the ability to exert influence play a key role, is the first step to finding possible solutions.

The attitude of each family member is extremely important. If we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of others, we can better develop what is happening. Therefore, the first step is not to blame either party, but to try to understand the influence each person is having on the problem.

Narrative therapy separates the problem from the person and strengthens understanding of the idea. Each person has their own values, commitments, and attitudes that help reduce the negative impact of the problem. Techniques such as negotiating and discussing possible alternatives are often used to find a new solution.

Narrative therapy and its methodology

Narrative therapy replaces the currently popular online approach with a linguistic model. It states that knowledge is a mutually agreed version of reality. It is a product of interpersonal interaction and negotiation. According to this therapy, individuals develop meaning in terms of the discourse context that sustains it.

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Therefore, our personal history, culture and the organizations we are part of are intimately linked to our actions and what we build in relationships. Thus, we organize our life experiences in the form of a narrative, with a temporal sequence, intentions, meanings, and results.

For this reason, narrative therapy understands therapy as a conversational process in which clients and therapists collectively create new meanings, stories, opportunities, and solutions to problems.

Here are the main tenets of narrative therapy:

  • Identification of the dominant story,
  • Researching the problem,
  • Getting to know valuable aspects,
  • Discovering the implications of exceptional events,
  • Analysis of the family situation.

Michael White gave great importance to the dramatic structure of the story. According to him, it is an "intermediary of influence". When we are to start telling a story, we usually skip parts of the experience. However, they can make a huge difference, even if we are convinced that they are not.

Therefore, the therapist's task is to try to save suppressed or invisible stories in the dominant story (the one narrated by the client). Tries to recover facts or thoughts that may help you regain your lost balance.

Externalization of problems

Some of the stories we tell become dominant or limiting to the point where they push us towards conclusions that worsen our mental health.

It should be noted that when people come to therapy with a predominant history filled with problems, the therapist focuses their efforts on trying to find the doorway to alternative stories. For example, it poses questions that invite a client to connect with experiences that have been sidelined when creating their story.

Narrative therapy by Michael White and David Epson separates the problem from the individual (externalization of problems). This facilitates the process of starting relationships again. This in turn creates a safe space where people can act to fight the problem.

Besides, it leaves room for their skills, interests, obligations and responsibilities. It focuses on their personal development and has a positive effect on coping strategies.