Narrative Therapy is based on the idea that as a person goes through life and has experiences, they attach meaning to those experiences. The process of attaching meaning creates a “story” for the event that explains what happened to us and why. We arrange these stories in our minds sequentially across time, connecting them to arrive at a coherent account of ourselves and the world around us. This account is referred to as a narrative. A person’s narrative functions like the lens on a camera; some aspects of life get filtered in and highlighted, while other aspects get filtered out and ignored.
For example, if I describe myself as depressed, I will likely pay more attention to a situation where I feel depressed because it fits with my narrative. When I experience a situation where I do not feel depressed, I will likely write that off as luck or some outside circumstance. In this way, depression can come to dominate the way I define myself as a person. We literally hear people say, “I am Depressed” as if that is who they are. Narrative Therapy provides a means to widen the lens of the camera, allowing the person to see parts of themselves and their experience that were previously obscured. For example, a person experiencing depression who arrives in my office is also likely courageous and determined, but these aspects of their identity are currently obscured by their experience of depression. Once these and other traits are rediscovered, the person will begin to see every situation differently.