Narrative therapy considers that people are experts on their lives, and they are seen as separate from their problems. It helps people to understand how their problems are impacting their lives and provides them with an independent, external perspective on their issues.

It’s a respectful and non-blaming approach to counselling.

Our member Susan Dale says: "Narrative therapists see people as making sense of their lives through relationships and the stories they tell of their lives.

"This type of therapy is based on the belief that people can change the stories they live by.

"It assumes that people already have many skills and abilities that will help them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives."

The goal of narrative therapy is to help you move away from a problem-filled description of your life to an identity that is more positively and richly described.

It aims to help you define yourself by many things – and not just your problems.

What does a narrative therapist do?

You may see your narrative therapist in person or online.

They will ask you a range of questions to find out about how your problems are impacting your life.

Susan adds: "This is different from many approaches in that it gives people the opportunity to look at the problem from an external position where they have much more agency to make change."

The therapist will treat you as the expert on your life.

They will help you to understand your problems and to make changes in your life.

Who can narrative therapy help? 

Narrative therapy can help individuals, couples, families, groups, and be useful for clients of any age.

It can help with a range of issues including: anxiety, depression, trauma and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Narrative therapy can also be beneficial for people who are struggling with isolation and exclusion.

Different techniques have been developed to help with specific problems.

What techniques are used in narrative therapy? 

Each narrative therapist will have a different way of working.  

But there are number of key techniques that are used as part of this type of therapy, techniques are:

  • externalising conversations: this is where your therapist asks you questions to help separate you as a person from your problems. Susan explains: A client may come saying, "I'm always anxious." A narrative therapist would be curious and would ask, "What does anxiety have you believing about yourself?" This technique can be helpful with anxiety, OCD and depression
  • deconstructing problem stories: when you start talking to your therapist, there are many different directions the conversation may take. A narrative therapist works with you to understand what the main problem is that you want to talk about
  • naming problems: a narrative therapist can help you give a name to your problem, for instance anxious thoughts, so you can keep track of how this problem has affected your life
  • re-authoring: Susan explains: "People have many stories they could tell of their lives, but often only prioritise negative or problem-saturated ones. Re-authoring gives an opportunity for people to prioritise the other stories that they live by."
  • re-membering: this is about looking at the important relationships and people in your life. "Re-membering gives people the chance to prioritise the relationships that enrich and sustain them," says Susan.

How to find a narrative therapist

Anyone can call themselves a counsellor or psychotherapist, so it’s important you choose a therapist who’s listed on a Professional Standards Authority accredited register – such as the BACP register.

Choosing a BACP-registered counsellor gives you an assurance that they meet the standards of proficiency, training and ethical practice you would expect. Our BACP therapist directory only lists therapists who are on our register.

You can also ask your therapist if they have any specific training or qualifications in narrative therapy, to help you understand if they are the right therapist for you.