Narrative therapy was created by therapists Michael White and David Epston and is rooted in humanistic and existential paradigms. The narrative therapist focuses upon the client’s perception of their life story, the way they make meaning of it, and explores the ways in which they would like their story to advance.
In this process, narrative therapists ask questions to help the client vividly re-experience significant events, chapters, and characters of their present and past life while also placing emphasis on the importance of vividly constructing the images and feelings of new events (“future memories”) to be integrated into the client’s life story.
The narrative therapist emphasizes growth and self-actualization rather than curing diseases or alleviating disorders. This perspective believes that people have an inherent capacity for responsible self-direction. For the narrative therapist, not being one’s true self is the source of problems.
The therapeutic relationship serves as a vehicle or context in which the process of psychological growth is fostered. The narrative therapist tries to create a therapeutic relationship that is warm and accepting and that trusts that the client’s inner drive is to actualize in a healthy direction.
Narrative Therapy and Drug Abuse
Narrative therapy address factors shaping substance abuse disorders, such as lack of meaning in one’s life, fear of death or failure, alienation from others, and spiritual emptiness.
Theoretically, narrative therapy penetrates substance abuse issues at a deeper level, often serving as a catalyst for seeking alternatives to substances to fill the void the client is experiencing.
Narrative therapy can add for the client a dimension of self-respect, self-motivation, and self-growth that will better facilitate his treatment. This type of approach may be particularly appropriate for short-term substance abuse treatment because it tends to facilitate therapeutic rapport, increase self-awareness, focus on potential inner resources, and establish the client as the person responsible for recovery. Thus, clients may be more likely to see beyond the limitations of short-term treatment and envision recovery as a lifelong process of working to reach their full potential.