Narrative Practice

“We are the stories we tell.”


Since time immemorial, human beings have been telling stories. This is true for all cultures. Narrative practice evolves around the stories that people use to describe themselves and their lives; who they are and what is important to them. The term ‘narrative’ indicates that people identify themselves by the stories they tell. Narrative practice sees people’s stories as the fundamental component of human experience. The stories we tell guide us how to think, act, feel and how to make sense of our experiences.

As people, we are meaning makers. Stories are the most familiar way we communicate the meanings we find in our experiences. The counsellor supports the person to gain an understanding of their story, and the many lines that criss-cross their life story.

This involves exploring the defining moments, experiences and significant relationships that form the fabric of our lives, from different perspectives and within different contexts. Often, this reveals stories that have been overlooked.

We consider our experiences in the wider context of life, from different perspectives, and how we construct our identity: we are a drop in the ocean that is made up of our relationships, culture, gender, generation, social values and norms.

Narrative practice externalises the problem, or the distressing experience that someone has. Externalising makes it possible to change our relationship with the painful experience or the problem. It creates the necessary distance required to make that change.

Narrative practice provides the opportunity to recognise the limitations our current story might place on us. In collaboration, the counsellor helps the person, who is the primary author of their life, to re-shape and re-author their story into a new story that replaces self-defeating and disempowering meanings into those that are supportive and empowering. This way, we gain a deeper understanding of our experiences and meanings that empower us.

The person is always viewed as the expert of their life, rather than the counsellor, who facilitates the process of rewriting but does not provide answers. Narrative practice empowers the person to move forward and to construct a more meaningful, fulfilling, peaceful life.