Narrative Therapy

I’m using narrative therapy as a methodological tool in a PhD chapter about Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo.


Bob Bertolino and Bill O’Hanlon’s Invitation To Possibility Land: An Intensive Teaching Seminar With Bill O’Hanlon (New York: Routledge, 2013) provided anecdotes about how O’Hanlon encountered Michael White and David Epston’s early work with narrative therapy. O’Hanlon mentions four stories that arise in the therapeutic interview: impossibility; blaming; invalidation; and determinism, non-accountability, and non-choice.


For O’Hanlon, White and Epston engaged in the “externalisation” of problems into a knowledge construct which could be examined and re-evaluated using relational language and stances. “Unique outcomes” can be created that involve “thickening the story” to create a performative “alternate story” and “metaphorical frames”. The co-created narrative is a transitional step to a more preferred reality: a way to engage with subjectivity, and, in particular, its life history overlays from familial and societal sources. These are, essentially, Re-Authoring experiences for individuals and families.


O’Hanlon framed White and Epston’s approach as a seven-step process: (1) Externalise problems. (2) Name/personify the problems. (3) Find out how the problems have affected the person and others. (4) Find moments when things went better or different in regard to the problems. (5) Find evidence from the past that supports the valued story. (6) Get them to speculate about a future that comes out of the valued story. (7) Develop a social sense of the valued story.


A review of the bibliography of White and Epston’s Narrative Means To Therapeutic Ends (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) highlights the influence of Clifford Geertz, Arnold Van Gennep, Victor Turner, Erving Goffman, and connects with the hero creation work of Orrin C. Klapp.