Writing Cures: An Introductory Handbook of Writing in Counselling and Psychotherapy

By Gillie Bolton; Stephanie Howlett et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The contribution of narrative ideas and writing practices in therapy

Jane Speedy

Among my people, questions are often answered with stories. The first story almost always evokes another, which summons another, until the answer to the question has become several stories long. A sequence of tales is thought to offer broader and deeper insight than a single story alone.

(Pinkola Estes 1992:1)


Introduction

There is growing interest across a range of disciplines and practices in 'narrative' and the co-construction of narratives as a useful root metaphor for understanding the ways that human beings construct, make sense of and transform their lives. The collection of ideas and practices that has become known as 'narrative therapy' might be regarded as a 'practice of writing 'in a number of ways. It is a 'storied' therapy that has strong roots within narrative, poststructuralist and literary theory and uses much of the language of these traditions. Narrative therapy presents quite a challenge to therapeutic practices that focus primarily on individual potential or 'inner state' psychology (see White 2001, for a discussion of these differences). It positions personal agency firmly within social and political discourses, and the cultural and historical traditions and 'local' stories that are available to people. In this way the construction of 'alternative' or preferred stories in therapeutic conversations, however fleeting or tentative, may be seen as something of an extraordinary achievement that warrants a written record in order to be more firmly captured and embraced.

Narrative therapy transparently and deliberately uses writing and the production of therapeutic documents and books on the part of therapists, the people that consult them and many of the 'outsider witnesses' to these therapeutic endeavours. Narrative practitioners also tend to subvert some of the taken-for-granted assumptions about the execution and ownership of note-taking and record keeping that have become part of the professional writing culture of therapy. These therapy notes, or reflections, are usually considered to have distinctly more therapeutic than professional purposes. More recently, poetic writing strategies that have emerged

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