Key Terms and Concepts

Narrative- social contructionist conceptualization of how people develop and create ‘storied’ meanings in their lives.

Narrative therapy- postmodern approach to counseling that is based on counselor characteristics that create an encouraging climate where clients see their stories from different perspectives. Philosophical framework assists clients in finding new meanings and possibilities in their lives.
Alternative story- a story that develops in therapy in contradiction to the dominant story that the problem is embedded in.

Co-authoring- a joint process where client and therapist share responsibility for developing alternative stories.
Deconstruction- exploring meaning by taking apart/unpacking the taken-for-granted categories and assumptions underlying social practices that are guised as truths.
Dominant story- understanding a situation that is accepted within a culture that appears to represent reality. Dominant stories are developed through conversations in social and cultural contexts and these stories shape how people construct and constitute what they are able to see, feel, and do. For the most part, dominant stories are foundational to cultures.
Externalizing conversation- a way of speaking about a problem as if it is an entity that is separate from the the client. This approach is useful because it moves the location of the problem from an interalized characteristic of the client. The therapeutic conversation moves towards talking about the problem as an external barrier.
Mapping-the-influence questions- a series of questions asked about a problem that clients have internalized as a means of understanding the relationship between client and problem.


Problem-saturated story- when clients are overwhelmed and fused to problems. NT assist clients to understand they do not have to reduce their identity by totalizing descriptions.
Re-authoring- a process in narrative therapy in which clients and therapists jointly create an alternative, preferred, life story.

Unique outcome- lived experiences are outside the realm of dominant stories OR lived experiences are contradiction to the problem story.
Comfortable Narrative - Shawne's excellent contribution. Perhaps she could elaborate.

Key Assumptions:

  • therapy lies in domain of language
  • human beings are interpretive beings -- we give meaning to our lived experiences
  • we do not interpret our lives within a vacuum -- we are influenced by and influence our contexts
  • one individual can have several stories because all of our experiences cannot be contained within a single story
  • clients are best judges of what will be helpful
  • clients have resources
  • therapists facilitate generation of new possible stories
  • both/and thinking is more likely to lead to change
  • therapist’s ideas & biases are a part of therapy & thus should be discussed
  • labels & diagnoses are helpful when they help to generate new stories
  • understanding is an ongoing process
  • useful to include persons who are characters in client’s narrative

Therapeutic Relationship:

  • Therapists seek to understand client experiences
  • Avoid predictions, interpretations, and pathologizing
  • Collaborate with clients to help them experience a heightened sense of agency (acting in society)

Techniques and Procedures:

  • Counselors seek to understand client experiences
  • Avoid predictions, interpretations, and pathologizing
  • Collaborate with clients to help them experience a heightened sense of agency (acting in society)