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Common Questions Narrative Therapy

What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative Therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston, who are from Australia and New Zealand.  Narrative Therapy is a method of therapy that attempts to separate the person from the problem.  It is used as a form of community work and counseling and encourages people to rely on their own skill sets to minimize the problems that exist in their everyday lives.  It holds the belief that a person's identity is formed by our experiences or narratives about our self.  Because the problem is seen as a separate from the person, a therapist can help a client externalize sensitive issues.  This lowers one's defenses and allows a client to feel more at ease and productive.


Who is Narrative Therapy for?

Narrative Therapy is for children, adolescents, adults, couples, families and wider groups and communities.  The Narrative Therapy approach involves the whole family and especially children by respecting their unique language, problem-solving resources, and views of the world.  It may involve play and a sense of humor while dealing effectively with distressing, or frightening situations.  We invite children to bring forth their imagination and creativity, while coming to grips with complex problems.  In a couple or family setting, the narrative process provides an environment for respect and value to flourish.  This approach sets the stage for creating positive interactions and transforming negative communication or responses into more accepting, non-judgmental and meaningful exchanges.  In Narrative Family Therapy, the therapist strives to help the clients identify with their experiences in a more helpful and respectful manner that benefits all members in the group. 

Collective Narrative practice involves a hopeful and respectful approach to responding to individuals, wider groups and communities experiencing trauma and significant hardship.  We enable people to tell their stories in ways that make them stronger.  We enable people to make a contribution to others who are also experiencing hard times.  The experience of making a contribution sustains and generates hope.  When whole communities are affected, we sometimes facilitate the sharing of information (skills) from one community to another.  The process involves teamwork and partnerships.


What are the Benefits of Therapy?

There are many benefits of therapy.  One of the biggest benefits of engaging in this form of therapy is being able to sift through the past to uncover skills, knowledges, values, stories that had previously remained unidentified and unacknowledged.  Acting as a facilitator and an investigator, the therapist is able to pose questions that challenge prior conceptions and reveal new ways of coping or perceiving one's life.  This can be a thoroughly revealing process, resulting in an insight that cannot be achieved through other traditional forms of therapy.  Having one's life story spoken aloud can be illuminating.  And through Narrative Therapy, a client is given the opportunity to revise and review the past from alternative perspectives, and envision a preferred future.

What are the Goals of Therapy?

At the core of my approach is Narrative Therapy, the belief that the problem is separate and distinctly apart from the person.  A problem does not define a person.  A problem is something that a person has, not something that a person is.  The goal is not to transform who you are, but rather to transform the effect that the problem has on your life.  Narrative Therapy utilizes the power of people's personal stories to discover their life purpose.  Clients are encouraged, through a respectful and cooperative relationship, to address the problems in their lives that exist amidst social, political, and cultural storylines.


Do I really Need Therapy?  I can usually Handle My Problems.  
  
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they want their life to move in a more positive and preferred direction, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face. 

Why do people go to Therapy and how do I know if it is Right for Me?

People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy.   Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well.  Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks.  Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods.  Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives. 

What is Therapy like?

Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  In general, we discuss what's most important and relevant to you.  Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development. Either way, the pace and frequency of therapy is determined by you and what you feel is most helpful.

It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process. The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors or taking action on your goals. People seeking psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.  

Does your Insurance cover the Therapy Sessions, and How Does that Work?
 
To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them.  Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers.  Some helpful questions you can ask them:
 
  • What are my mental health benefits?
  • What is the coverage amount (or cap) per therapy session?
  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
  • Is approval required from my primary care physician?
  • What types of counseling services does my insurance cover?
* You are still able to deduct a therapy session as a medical expense on your income taxes.


 Does what we talk about in Therapy remain Confidential?
 
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and psychotherapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office.   Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (you’re your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.
 
However, provincial law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
 
* If a child under the age of 16 is being physically, emotionally or sexually abused.
* If a person has serious intent to harm him/herself or another person.
* If subpoenaed from court.
 

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