Telling Your Story As The Expert
Most therapists, regardless of the psychological theories they use, consider themselves to be experts, and rightfully so. The problem with this attitude is that as experts they feel that they are the ones with the access to the knowledge and wisdom that will help their clients improve. The role of the client in this context is to provide as much personal information as possible, at which point the therapist interprets it and funnels it through whichever theory seems appropriate and then decides upon the proper action plan.
In narrative therapy this all gets turned on its head. The therapist is more like a curious and intelligent interviewer, and the client is considered the primary expert, the person with all the knowledge and wisdom about his life story. The goal of the therapist is really to ask the right questions to help the client clarify aspects of his life and Self that he already knows deep down but may have never said out loud.
This sort of attitude in therapy helps shift the power balance and actively puts the engine of change where it belongs, in the hands of the client, making him responsible for his own growth instead of leaving it to a professional to diagnose what is wrong and then fix it.
Sometimes people have been so beaten down by life that they don’t realize just how many skills and how much wisdom they have accumulated over the years. There is all this dormant energy waiting to be activated, and the narrative process helps people fully realize and use what is already there instead of trying to put something new into them or make them different than they already are.
Clients usually love this type of therapy because they don’t feel like guinea pigs, they feel like powerful experts. Some of this expertise is hidden or not fully developed but it is there nonetheless. When we can tell our stories out loud to a curious observer, getting the chance to make sense of the complicated tapestries of our lives, weaving various components together, we stumble upon abilities and traits we didn’t know we had, we start taking pride in them, and finally we start to actively use them in our lives to get to where we want to go.
When you have finished a course of therapy in this context you don’t have to feel like anyone else cured you or was responsible for your recovery. You know you did the hard work yourself and only needed a skilled listener to help you mine the necessary data.