Narrative Family Therapy

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    Narrative Family Therapy

    Originated in Australia and New Zealand

    Focuses on helping families solve difficulties by depersonalizing them and rewriting family stories

    Focuses on externalizing problems so families can work together on them.

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    Major Theorists

    Michael White

    David Epston

    Michael Durrant

    Gerald Monk

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    Michael White

    Influenced by Bruner, Foucault, and Vygotsky, as well as by Feminist theory

    He also learned that narratives may be overshadowed by dominant problem-saturated stories

    Influenced by Foucault

    Believed that problems could be addressed when a culture’s values and ideas could be questioned or challenged.

    Established the Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre

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    Premises of the Theory

    Nonsystemic approach to working with individuals and families based on liberation philosophy

    Distinguishes between logico-scientific reasoning and narrative reasoning

    People live their lives through their stories, and families are formed and transformed through stories

    Emphasizes empowering client-families to develop their unique and alternative stories (reauthoring their lives)

    Client-families urged to externalize problems to solve them

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    Treatment Techniques

    Externalization of the Problem

    process by which therapists seek to separate problems from people

    Results in the following:

    Decrease in unproductive conflict between persons

    Lessening of the sense of failure and unresolved problem places on a person

    Increase of cooperation among family members to problem solve and engage in dialogue with each other

    Opening up of new possibilities for action

    Freeing of persons to be more effective and less stressed in approaching problems (White & Epston, 1990)

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    Treatment Techniques

    Influence (Effect) of the Problem on the Person: the process of asking each family member to give a no-holds-barred account of how the problem has affected him or her

    Influence (Effect) of the Person on the Problem: asking family members how they have influenced a problem

    Raising Dilemmas: helping families examine possible aspects of a problem before the need arises

    Predicting Setbacks: planning for and anticipating potential setbacks in family therapy

    Using Questions

    Exceptions Questions

    Significance Questions


    Celebrations and Certificates

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    Treatment Techniques

    Using Question: to challenge families to examine the nature of the difficulties they bring to therapy and what resources they have and can use to handle their problems

    Exceptions Questions: directed toward finding instances when a situation reported to be a problem was not true

    Significance Questions: questions utilized to search for and reveal the meanings of important exceptions (Kurtz & Tandy, 1995)

    Letters: done after therapy sessions, serving as a medium for continuation of the dialogue between the therapist and family members as a reminder of therapy sessions

    Celebrations and Certificates

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    Treatment Techniques


    Complete after therapy sessions have concluded

    Serve as a medium for continuation of the dialogue between the therapist and family members as a reminder of what transpired in the therapy sessions

    Celebrations and Certificates

    a unique and important part of narrative therapy

    Used to bring closure to therapy.

    Serve as a tangible affirmation of the defeat of a problem

    Also, they mark the beginning of a new description of a family (White & Epston, 1990)

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    Role of the Therapist

    Collaborator, who assumes the role of nonexpert

    Centrifugal, or decentered

    Use relationship skills such as attending, paraphrasing, clarifying, summarizing, and checking

    Assist families in separating themselves from old, problem-saturated stories by constructing new stories (reauthoring)

    Help new stories emerge by looking for unique outcomes, or storied experiences that do not fit the problem saturated story (Molina et al., 2004, p. 144)

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    Process and Outcome

    Process consists of three phases:

    Deconstructing the dominant cultural narrative

    Externalizing the problem

    Reauthoring the story (Molina et al., 2004, p. 144)

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    Unique Aspects of Narrative Family Therapy

    Emphasizes reauthoring by families of their stories

    Individuals and families asked to look for exceptions to the difficult situations they are experiencing

    Expectations of setbacks and the raising of dilemmas are built into narrative family therapy

    Letters are sent to families about their progress, and celebrations are held when goals are achieved.

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