You may have one or many stories from parts of your life which you wish to tell. They may be stories of achievement, endurance, trial, or trauma.
Narrative therapy is easily applied in both personal counselling and career counselling.
The role of the psychologist is firstly to be a supportive audience member, to encourage you to describe aspects of a story in detail. Your psychologist might ask questions like:
- What were other characters doing at the time?
- What emotions were you feeling when this event happened?
- What did you decide to do, and how did you come to that decision?
- What does this story say about you at that age?
The psychologist might ask for you to share stories from different parts of your life: primary school, high school, your 20’s, 30’s, your working life, your home life, your holidays …
These can be marked on a timeline so that together you with the psychologist can reflect on the journey you have travelled so far, events that have been meaningful for you, and hurdles you have negotiated or overcome.
As you share your story (or stories), the psychologist will be looking for themes that the stories share in common, and what these stories tell her about you as a unique person. She might use a whiteboard to write key words or draw images that stand out as you narrate, and as you respond to her questions.
Narrative Therapy in Career Counselling
The stories you choose may highlight your values, priorities, natural gifts and talents, all of which can aid the process of career counselling.
Note that these stories don’t have to be just from your working life; how you are amongst friends, family, and when engaging in hobbies can tell a lot about the kind of role you like to have in a team. You may like to be a leader, or you may prefer to support others. You may be someone who is full of ideas and long term dreams, or you may be naturally inclined to attend to details in the present and like to see things get done. Narrative therapy can be a great starting point for career guidance in these ways.
In the safe environment of personal counselling, you can take time to describe and reflect on past hurts or damaged relationships, and in doing so, you have the power to RE-tell the story anew. Though none of us can change the past, we can change how we remember events and the impact they have on us today. You as narrator are gently encouraged to recall and add into your narrative further details as YOU remember them.
For example, you may have a story from your childhood in which you were abused. Usually, you try not to think about it because it brings up unpleasant sensations and emotions, but those times when you do remember it, you feel confused about why it happened, maybe even asking yourself “Why did I let it happen?” or “Why didn’t anyone stop it from happening?”.
By RE-telling the story in the safe space of the counselling room, the psychologist can gently ask for details about the story, like:
- Where did this story happen?
- Where were your parents or siblings at the time?
- What do you remember being said to you by the person in the room?
- What do you remember feeling? Physically? Emotionally?
- and importantly: What happened afterwards?
Through this process, you are letting yourself face the story of abuse from your past, and piecing together the parts of the story to complete the picture of what you have survived and how you survived it to be here today.
The exciting thing about narrative therapy is that you, the narrator, can use this process to begin writing the next chapter of your life. What have you learnt about yourself from these stories? What are your priorities now? What values do you want to live out? What is going to be YOUR next story?
Author: Naomi Griffin, BA (Psych & Music); Grad Dip in Pastoral Couns; PG Dip Psych; Grad Cert Case Management; Grad Cert Ed Studies (Career Development); STAP; MAPS; MCCoun.
Please Note: Naomi is not currently practising at Vision Psychology, but is continuing to provide supervision for provisional (including 4+2 and 5+1) and registered psychologists, and for ministry agents in the wider Christian community. If you would like information regarding supervision, or want to book an appointment with a Christian psychologist, please contact Reception on 1800 877 924.