Narrative Therapy

Narrative Therapy

Originally developed in the 1980s, narrative therapy is an evidence-based, innovative and collaborative approach to couples counseling that is based on the idea that “there is no objective truth”. Every person has a story. These stories are based on layers and layers of experiences and influence how we interact with our world.

In the case of a couple, each partner brings their own story and experiences to the relationship. Where those stories and experiences clash is where problems arise. With a narrative approach, couples can explore the underpinnings of their own experiences and together, learn to write new stories to deal with issues.

What To Expect

The therapist’s role is to help you find your voices, tell your stories and alter or even construct new stories. So what can you expect when you choose a therapist who uses this approach? Expect that you will have an experience that is collaborative, respectful and non-judgmental. In the narrative approach, you and your partner are considered the “experts” in your lives. You’ll spend a lot of time talking to each other.

The therapist will ask a lot of questions to help guide that exploration as you and your partner develop your new couple’s story. This process is known as “re-authoring” or “re-storying.”


One of the most powerful techniques used in narrative therapy is something called externalization.

Externalization helps couples learn to define problems as separate entities.

When couples come to counseling, they are sometimes in a place where they’ve decided that the problems in the relationship are just part of “who they are” and “just the way it is.” This makes it easy to play the blame game.

The truth is, your relationship may have issues but you are not your marital problem, and neither is your spouse.

Externalization helps couples learn to define problems as separate entities. You might even give your problem a name. When couples are able to separate themselves from their problems in this way, they learn to communicate in more compassionate and productive ways as they solve problems together essentially shutting down the blame game. This collaboration builds feelings of trust, acceptance and emotional intimacy.

Other Narrative Techniques

Some of the many other techniques that a narrative therapist might use, depending on the situation, include writing your life story, deconstruction of a story or the use of expressive arts such as drawing, journaling, visualization or meditation.

The length of therapy will vary. Some couples need only a few sessions. Other couples may need considerably more time depending on the complexity of their issues. Your therapist will assess your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

To learn more about narrative therapy, please visit

You can learn about other couples therapy methodologies here.

Written by
Dr. Dawn Ferrara, LMFT