Individual Counseling

Problem Saturated Story

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A central goal of narrative therapy is to help a client move away from the problem saturated story. This can be a challenging task because most people are entrenched in the thought pattern where the route to mental health necessarily means eradicating their problems by focusing on what is wrong with them.

But from the narrative point of view there’s a different way. It doesn’t discount the significance of problems but it does posit that our life narratives are built upon limited data points that never tell the whole story. Once these narratives have become more or less set, instances that further them are given cognitive and emotional weight while those that contradict them are discounted or outright ignored, both by the individual and by important people in the individual’s environment. In CBT we call this confirmation bias.

We can counteract the problem saturated story by looking for unique outcomes, which are concrete instances that have been overlooked but that put the whole situation in a different light. These unique outcomes are times when a client resisted the problem. They serve as a point of access for a new, more complete narrative that includes strengths and successes rather than remaining exclusively focused on weaknesses and failures.

Like we said, narrative therapy doesn’t pretend problems don’t exist, it just situates them differently, within the environment instead of within the individual, and it opens up space to see a fuller picture of life instead of remaining stuck within the problem saturated story.