What is Narrative Therapy, and How Does it Help Addiction?

What is Narrative Therapy, and How Does it Help Addiction?Narrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy in which we “rewrite” the narrative, or story, of our life in order to change the outcome of our circumstances.

During the 1970s and ’80s, an Australian social worker named Michael White and his colleague, David Epston of New Zealand, developed the practice of narrative therapy. Many years later, the two co-authored a book on the subject, Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends.

The idea at the core of narrative therapy is that our problems are separate from our identity. In fact, the motto of narrative therapy is, “The person is not the problem. The problem is the problem.” In this view, our mistakes and problems are not the result of our identity, an idea espoused by many other forms of psychotherapy. Narrative therapy, therefore, holds that human beings do not need to be “fixed”; instead, they need only imagine a new outcome for their lives.

Each of us has many different stories within us, which together form our identity. In narrative therapy, we “re-author” our identity by writing a new story – one in which we gain mastery over our problems. We are guided through this process with the help of a therapist, who acts as an “investigative reporter.” By asking a series of questions, our reporter/therapist mirrors our individual skills, knowledge, and values. As we re-author our stories, we proceed as if writing a novel: We create a plot, theme, and characters, with the role of the protagonist reserved exclusively for us.

Once we’ve re-written our stories, we invite a third-party “outsider witness” into the process. Much like the reader of a novel, the outsider witness reacts to our narrative on a personal level, commenting on parts of our story they find interesting, exciting, or thought provoking. Using this feedback, we further refine our story.

Narrative therapy can be an effective tool for the recovering addict or alcoholic. By allowing us to see a different vision for ourselves, we can create a life free of drugs, alcohol, and compulsive behaviors. We imagine different habits, different feelings, and different people – in short, a whole new way of living.

Working with our therapist, we begin to shed the skin of our old lives and become liberated from our problems and mistakes. By re-imagining a happy, healthy, new self, we can begin to live lives of peace, serenity, joy, and purpose.  


When you are choosing a private residential treatment program, choose the program that focuses on personalized care, the greatest luxury accommodations, and has the highest accreditations. Harmony Place offers a full continuum of treatment options from detox to transitional living encouraging recovery for a lifetime. For a private consultation and more information, call us today: 1-888-789-4330