Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Narrative House: A Metaphor for Narrative Therapy: Tribute to Michael White

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Narrative House: A Metaphor for Narrative Therapy: Tribute to Michael White

Article excerpt


This article is a tribute to Michael White, co-founder of narrative therapy, who passed away on 5 April 2008. Michael White and David Epston founded a substantial and ground-breaking psychological movement based on narrative therapy. Michael touched with dignity and changed for the better the lives of thousands. Michael White was an extraordinary person: philosopher, scientist and psychologist, who has opened alternative opportunities of hope to individuals through narrative therapy. Michael will be mourned by many; his teachings will be celebrated by many more. May the richness of his legacy flourish. A discussion follows concerning the theory of narrative therapy. This is illustrated by picture, depicting the main constructs of narrative therapy (figure 1), representing a metaphor of narrative therapy. This picture is in line with the therapeutic method of drawing pictures of metaphors in the counselling process, as propagated by White and Epston, and illustrated on DVD by David Epston: Narrative therapy with a young boy (Epston, 2002). The aim of the paper is not to give a linear representation of what narrative therapy should be, but rather to illustrate the main facets of narrative therapy.


Michael White indicates that though there are specific defined stages in narrative therapy, these stages should be used creatively by therapists as a non-rigid framework (White, 2004b). White argued that every therapist should develop a distinctive personal method of narrative therapy, while keeping the principles in mind, as it should not be limited and restricted to a rhetoric science (Payne, 2006; White, 2004b). There is in other words a progression taking place in narrative therapy, and the principles that surface and play a role are not a linear, structured development of argument. In the counselling process, the therapist should be guided by and explore each client's unique story. White (1995a) refers to the narrative therapy process as a 'zigzagging' process between the different notions of narrative therapy.

The aim of the discussion is to serve as a guideline and a non- stereotypical directive in which the important notions of narrative therapy play a role. The discussion is ordered in themes from the left to the right of the picture in figure 1 . The topics are not numbered, because of the non- sequential stance taken in narrative therapy. The not- knowing method of narrative therapy allows the therapist to follow the discussion by a scaffolding process (Payne, 2006; White, 2005; White & Morgan, 2007), or an eagle flight (Botha, 2007) by observing the landscapes of identity and action in a decentred way, as storied by the client. Figure 1 serves as a guideline to direct a client from a 'problem- saturated' dominant description to a process of deconstruction and externalisation of the problem, contradicting the problem- saturated stories by means of unique outcomes, and finally re-storying alternative hopeful narratives with a richer identity, supported by a re-membering audience (Epston, 1998; White, 1991; White & Epston, 1990).

Definition of narrative therapy

Narrative Therapy was originally developed by Michael White and David Epston during 1970-1980, referring to the way in which discourses in societies contribute to the forming of our identities (White, 2008; Wikepedia, 2008). Through narratives in therapy, people express the meaning they attach to the interpretation of their life experiences (White, 2008). During narrative therapeutic discussions, problems are objectified and metaphorically externalised as problematic and separate from the individual, so that the problem is seen as the problem and the person is not regarded as the problem (Freedman & Coombs, 1996; Wikepedia, 2008). In this way people have the opportunity to reflect on their problematic life experiences and re- claim and re- author their lives from problem- saturated narratives into alternative richer success stories (Freedman & Coombs, 1996; White, 2008). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.