So Mim, what is narrative therapy?
Narrative therapy is a form of counselling and community work that centres people as experts in their own lives. It understands that not all problems can be eliminated. Chronic illnesses cannot necessarily be cured. Gendered double standards and unequal pay cannot be fixed overnight.
Therefore, narrative therapy treats problems as problems, not people as problems. In my practice I also stand by the question, “is the problem the problem, or is it how we’re thinking of the problem that’s the problem?” Therefore, instead of trying to “fix” problems, I help people renegotiate their relationship with problems.
One of the ways we make meaning of our human experience is through stories. If an event happens to us over and over again, we mentally create storylines about what that means. Other people can also place stories on us against our own will, which can steer us further away from how we originally perceived ourselves. If we step back and look at the narratives that are informing our lives we can gain greater control in choosing the ones that define us.
What kind of questions do you ask?
I ask eternal questions. That is, questions that inspire growth and new perspectives. They’re the kind you could jot down on a piece of paper and think about a week or a year later - questions you could offer others and collaboratively reflect on with friends at a dinner party.
What is the ultimate goal of narrative therapy?
The ultimate goal is to free people of the control that dominant narratives have on people’s lives. Dominant narratives are socially and culturally constructed ideas about how we “should” live according to gender, health, race, socio-economic status and other factors that often precede us in defining our identity. Dominant narratives convince us that if we fulfil them, we will find “success” and happiness.
Social expectations and norms can make us feel small, excluded, unheard, undervalued and powerless. By getting clear on our preferred narratives (the ways in which we’d prefer to live our lives) we can begin to silence the dominant narratives. I do this through hosting conversations that bring people to question the things they’ve taken for granted for so long. Often, we have the answers, but we’ve been listening to our parents, boss, school or the media that they’ve been buried.
What’s your approach to finding solutions to problems?
We can never truly know what it’s like to “live in someone else’s shoes”. Likewise, there’s no one story fits all. We’re multi-storied - our human experiences are shaped by history, social movements, time, place and personal experience.
As a narrative practitioner, I seek to never make assumptions about people and problems. If we do, we limit ourselves from seeing solutions. Rather than jumping to prescribing generic methods like journaling, meditation and gratitude lists, narrative therapy honours and draws on individuals’ own values, skills and experiences to devise solutions that fit.
Feeling lost, pressured or stumped? Maybe you’re stuck asking yourself a question that’s getting you nowhere new. Asking better questions yields better answers.
How would you describe a session with you?
My narrative practice is characterised by a conversational and journalistic style of interviewing and draws on my own independent research into emotions, cognition, anthropology and pop culture. I host sessions over Skype. Contact me for a free introductory session!