Narrative therapy: techniques, effectiveness, process


Psychotherapy, often simply called therapy or talk therapy, uses research-based techniques to help people lead better lives and overcome difficulties. It is estimated that one in 10 American adults sees a counselor or therapist.

There are many different approaches and styles of psychotherapy, but what most of them have in common is that it is a collaborative relationship between client and therapist. Narrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify their values ​​and skills in order to create new possibilities in their lives.

Read on to learn more about narrative therapy, how it works, and who it might help.

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What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy was developed in the 1980s by two social workers and therapists, Michael White and David Epston. The technique views problems as separate from the individual and recognizes a person’s innate ability to solve those problems. Through conversations with a therapist, the person can reframe past events, realize their full potential, and rewrite their life story.

How it works

We all have certain events or stories in our lives that become central to who we are, like “I’ve always been sad” or “This traumatic event changed everything.” In narrative therapy, you and a therapist work together to look closely at these stories and look for problematic themes.

The goal is to stop centering your identity around these problematic stories. Over time you will find that you have many different stories to tell. By identifying your unique values ​​and strengths, you will be able to see new possibilities in your life.

How can this help

This style of therapy is versatile: it can be used with individuals, couples and families. It can even be used in group settings. Research has shown that narrative therapy can be effective in treating certain conditions, including:


Therapists who work from a narrative therapy framework place importance on telling one’s story as a modality of change. The client and therapist identify problem scenarios and work to rewrite them. It can help people dealing with trauma or other issues to move on with their lives.

The therapist can:

  • Help customers identify problems
  • Placing issues in a broader socio-cultural context
  • Teach clients how to make room for alternate stories

This mode of therapy helps people to see that their life is not made up of one script – they contain many stories and there are many different aspects to their life. It can help them reframe negative attitudes and thoughts they have about past events.

What does it do?

This form of therapy helps clients separate from their past experiences. This helps them develop self-confidence and problem-solving tools.


The costs of therapy can depend on many variables: where you live, if your insurance plan covers it, the type of provider you see, if they have sliding scale fees, etc. Without insurance coverage, a single therapy session can cost up to $250, according to Good Therapy, an online resource that helps people find the right therapist for them.

Who should avoid it?

Narrative therapy may not be suitable for people with developmental disabilities, and people with language or communication problems may find other types of therapy more helpful. It is possible to combine narrative therapy with other techniques such as music, dance or art therapy to encourage non-verbal expression.

If you’re wondering if narrative therapy is right for you, talk to the therapist. Ask them about the suitability of this therapy for your situation. A good therapist will be honest and, if necessary, refer you to another clinician who might be a better fit.


Narrative therapy helps people reframe and rewrite traumatic or problematic stories in their lives and move forward with different narratives. It has been shown to be effective for anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other conditions, and it may be a viable option for many people.

A word from Verywell

Although there are studies showing the effectiveness of narrative therapy, it is important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. One of the most important factors that determine the success of any type of therapy is the relationship between therapist and client. It is important that you work with someone you feel comfortable with. If you and your therapist don’t click, don’t feel bad about switching.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does therapy cost?

    The cost of therapy can vary greatly, depending on the type of therapist you see, the geographic area you live in, whether a therapist has sliding scale fees, and much more. Without insurance, a session can cost up to $250.

  • Will insurance cover narrative therapy?

    It depends on whether the therapist partners with insurance companies. If it’s an in-network provider, your insurance plan should cover some or all of it, and you’ll pay a co-pay. If they don’t partner with your insurer, you may be able to submit a claim for out-of-network benefits and be partially reimbursed. See your benefits summary for more details on what your plan covers.


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