What is narrative

A narrative approach is a hope filled way of looking at the world through stories as well as interacting with people whether you’re a leader, the counsellor, the coach, the psychologist, the parent, the doctor, the teacher, the friend, the pastor. A narrative approach offers practical application in any of these and other roles.

Telling stories

Naturally, of these mentioned roles and occupations the counsellor, coach and some others intentionally put it to work in ‘helping relationships.’ So also, could the leader use it in change processes, parents and teachers help children acquire confidence, doctors employ it to understand the ways in which people’s lived stories keep their health stuck.

Whatever you want to place after ‘narrative- …’ (whether counselling, coaching, consulting), simply becomes the direction in which the stories develop. Narrative remains largely unchanged. People tell and live in stories whether they know it or not. And for those who know this it becomes a powerful force for good for practitioners, community workers, professionals and just about in the hands of every occupation there is. Where there are people there are stories.

For us to be narrative practitioners does not necessarily imply that we ask people to tell a story. We could do that, but that may well lead to anxiety about having to tell a story. No, they tell stories whether they want to or not. They do this when they share their views, their values, things that happened, tell of their relationships and more. When we tell things, it is also clear for a narrative practitioner that we live in the stories of our culture, family, society, organisation, gender, faith, race, age and more. Of whatever experience we tell, it is informed by such stories.

A narrative practitioner works with a person, family, community, organisation towards building the preferred narratives by bringing it into language, though eloquence (using the ‘right’ words) has little to do with it. You might as well dance it, draw it, perform it, write it down, capture images of it, do woodwork based on it. That is entirely up to you and those you consult. This kind of ‘telling’ is not instructional, it is a performance of meaning and we invite (in various ways) those who we consult about their lived experiences to become the authors. As they do, their agency increase and they are filled with hope, possibility, and often take self-directed action.

Even for people who are not interested in doing narrative with counselling there is good reason to be learning about narrative in the context of counselling. Narrative in this context helps us see that people don’t change simply because we are the experts, as if we give the steps or motivation and magically, they change. They don’t, mostly not for those reasons in any case.  And if something doesn’t change, neither will their relationships, their families, their communities, or organisations – the world we live in.

This is not the end. Go shape the story you live. Live the story you shaped.

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