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Finding Freedom Through Narrative Therapy

Finding Freedom Through Narrative Therapy

by Spencer Lee, MSW Intern

When we are kids, our parents make the rules. We don’t get any say, and there’s usually a punishment for breaking the rules. As we get a little older, we not only abide by the rules of our parents, but also those of teachers, community leaders, and even the expectations of society as a whole. As we get older, these expectations can be about getting good grades, following a particular job path, looking a certain way, making a set amount of money, etc. We follow along because that’s what we’re told and nobody wants to face punishment.


When we become adults, many of those rules and expectations stick with us; they have been ingrained. And something we often forget about is that as adults, we get to make our own rules. So often we get stuck in feelings of guilt, or shame. We go around “shouldding” ourselves and feel frustrated for not living up to an expectation that someone else created for us.


Narrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy developed by David Epston and Michael White in the 1980s. The goal of narrative therapy is to help you to identify your way of life, apart from the influence of others.


A great example of this is the movie, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Julia Roberts has everything she is supposed to have- a great job, friends, a husband, etc. On the outside, she is doing everything right. Yet, we find her completely unfulfilled in life.


Cue the narrative therapy that for Julia Roberts takes the form of traveling the world, eating pasta, and meditating. She steps away from the expectations and beliefs that she had before- the ones that she had no say in creating- and she takes the time to learn about her wants and desires to truly discover how best to live her life.


Now, we can’t all be as lucky as her to drop everything and spend a year traveling in the name of self-exploration, but we can create the same outcome of finding freedom and fulfillment with narrative therapy.


Narrative therapy is freeing, because it is a process of creating our own rules, expectations, and meaning. Through narrative therapy, we learn where certain beliefs we hold come from, realize whether those beliefs are helpful to us or not, and then decide if we want to keep or change the beliefs moving forward. Afterall, we are the experts of our own lives so it only makes sense that we take control.