Narrative Therapy

written by Chana Frumin

We each speak to ourselves all day long
We have thousands of thoughts throughout the day.
Some thoughts are about our own worth. Some thoughts are about other people’s worth. Many thoughts are criticism and complaints about our own achievements and others. Sometimes this self-talk is a punitive voice lashing out against our mistakes. Sometimes self-talk is mean or revengeful. Sometimes hopeless and despairing.
When we feel lousy at the end of a day often it is the product of our own perceptions. I have found that adults whose mothers nurtured them with words and offered positive feedback have more positivity in their outlook than adults whose mother neglected them or offered daily criticism.
We can not change our mothers. We can change our self-talk!
You can begin to like yourself. You can give yourself specific praise. You can greet your day like a good friend. you can notice how you are dressed and how you make your breakfast. You can smile to yourself in the mirror and be a good friend to yourself. When you make a mistake you can say, everyone makes mistakes, it is okay.
When you befriend yourself, you generate good will towards others. Your friendship with yourself sheds light on those around you who need a friend. Your positive self-regard will protect you from neediness and desperation. Liking yourself is a comfortable feeling. It includes laughing at your own jokes and giving yourself encouragement. This practice will spill over onto everyone in your life. the way
you befriend yourself you will befriend others.
You will also learn to protect yourself from people who do not offer you positive friendship. you will be able to walk away from those people who would dim your light. By protecting your own world, you will offer shelter for those who will be worthy of your friendship,
Try and let me know how this works for you!

by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld

There comes a time in every therapy relation when it is time to end.  It is not the purpose of therapy to continue forever, to be a permanent fixture of the person’s life.  Our purpose in providing therapeutic help is to empower the person to be able to deal with his problems by himself.  That is why our approach is to decline to give advice, to offer our own ideas on how to solve the problems at hand.  Continue reading

After many years of therapies, I still felt unheard and unacknowledged. One of my friends suggested I try another type of therapy.
It is called Narrative Therapy.

So being who I am I started seeing someone who does this. I also joined the group to learn the ins and outs of how it works. For the first time in many years I felt better about myself and my situation. I built up my confidence to drive again and to start working outside the home.

But just like when we take anti-biotic and start feeling better, we start thinking we don’t need it any more. Mr. Sabotage doing his job!!! I stopped going for a few years and things began to get much worse, especially since I had most of the kids out and more free time to feel my feelings. Well thank G-d I was smart enough to recognize this phenomenon.
Then one day I found the strength to make a decision that ABUSE is not allowed in my marriage. We had both suffered enough. Abuse had attached itself to our marriage for too long. It has caused much pain and has destroyed the quality of our life together as a couple and as a family. With the resources of love compassion and empathy, I pray and hope that together my husband and I can finally be rid of this Villain.
Today is my husband’s birthday and my gift to him is my conviction to eradicate Abuse once and for all in our family. He has agreed to see this therapist somewhat reluctantly. Yet with time and this method of externalizing the problem I believe we have hope in finally actualizing our dream and working on the tikun that Hashem gave for us!

For me, my work is to get rid of the sadness and resentments of the past. Hashem commanded us on how we are to mourn, and excess mourning isn’t healthy, and neither is holding on to the resentments. I once heard that hanging on to resentments is like pouring poison down your throat .. It really only hurts oneself. I will continue this time to go to therapy and hold on to the hope of a better future. I will need to be very patient and persevere, which are strengths I have acquired raising a special needs child. With G-d’s help and a good therapist we will get there!.

The present moment is infinitely more subtle than any imagined destiny or remembered past. The present has something new in it – something unlived. The present has colors and sounds that are real and can fill the heart of a person better than a rich meal can fill the stomach. The present offers a sense of being that is just being known in this moment, and so it can describe a self that is only being known at this moment. The cast of players who people this moment offer a taste of humanness that is indescribable, because it has not yet been lived.

The last thing Despair wants anyone to do is enjoy the present moment. In fact, the present moment ceases to exist when despair is around, because despair takes up every present moment with prattling about the future and the past. Despair’s merchandise is all the “if only” and “it ought to be” thoughts about life that arise largely from fantasy, Hollywood, or someone elseʼs life.
Many times, Despair wants our focus on everything that can be cast in a discouraging light. Even that which is promising can become degraded into a story of dread and failure. Despair sometimes tries to dominate our definition of our self and have this definition to be about gloom and failure. Despair can also attempt to destroy or ignore our own definition of our self and life. Here is an example where it did not succeed:
Dalia was dating Ben. Dalia was very excited about the possibilities with Ben but felt he might reject her, because she considered herself heavy. Even as they were dating, she would hear a voice that said, “Your skirt is too tight. He will never marry you.” Dalia stood up to this voice and began to share its dread-filled messages with a friend to ostracize these messages and laugh at them. She maintained that anyone who could see her would love her. Ben and Dalia are married happily today, and Dalia never lost a pound. Many people would have advised Dalia to get serious and lose weight quickly before she lost Ben, but Dalia believed that love was not about weight, rather it was about seeing and being seen.
By attaching herself to her own definition of love, she was able to buy back the present and truly enjoy the time she had with Ben without knowing if they would end up married. Despair had failed to entice Dalia into accepting weight as the definition of a person deserving to be married. Self-acceptance and having her own definition saved Dalia from Despairʼs cruel attempts to separate her from the enjoyment of dating Ben.
By exploring our own knowledge and experience, we can find relationships and achievements of personal value that Despair can prevent from being seen. By staying in touch with these experiences, we can realize the tricks that Despair plays. By creating a Hollywood set of doom and degradation, Despair convinces us that this blackened version of reality is truth.
By letting the present moment influence me, I can find a space of safety and self-value. Although despair is a big opponent, I am determined to know that my life has value as much as everyone’s life has value. Then I begin gently to fill my life with meaning and fun. Meaning and fun are the enemies of despair.
The present moment used with intention is a powerful tool against despair.
Chana Frumin

by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld, M.S.W.

Invariably when a person comes in to therapy it’s because they have a problem or series of problems bothering them. This problem may be so overwhelming that they can’t see anything else positive about their life. It may be so overwhelming that it takes over their life. They may even think that they are the problem. They may have made the problem as part of their identity.

In Narrative we attempt to gently steer the conversation in a slightly different direction. The person may indeed have a problem, but the problem does not define the person. Continue reading

Topics discussed :Externalization, Not Knowing, Ending Taboos

I have found many times that Transference is a subject that is covered with Taboo. It seems to be only discussed in intellectual settings. For some reason it has been moved off of the page of reasonable discussion. This is a curious thing since very often clients and therapists experience it within their work. Continue reading

HaRav Tauber says that husband and wife are like two rough diamonds. A rough diamond can become a priceless, pure jewel, but only if another diamond is used to remove the impurities. So HaKadosh Boruch Hu puts together two perfectly matched rough diamonds. He makes sure that they have their little differences. The friction from these differences scrapes away at their impurities so they gradually become multi-faceted, pure, shining jewels. Continue reading

by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld, M.S.W.

One of the tenets of Narrative Therapy is that the “therapist” does not assume that he is the expert on the client’s life, that he is expected to make an expert diagnosis, and to prescribe an expert cure.  Rather, we take a “not-knowing” position, that we don’t really know how the client feels, thinks, and behaves in any and all situations.  We’ve only just met him or her, spoken with them for a few hours maybe.  They have lived their whole life in intimate contact with themselves.  When these “problems” came into the client’s life, he was there.  He was also there when he was able to control or overcome the problem.  Our job is to mainly ask questions about how the problem influences them, and how the client has influenced the problem.  What we try to do is to assist him to access his expert knowledge on how he has successfully dealt with the problem, and how to apply this knowledge to possible future situations.
This aspect of the therapist placing the client in the position of expert is dealt with in greater detail in an article on this website by Rachel Berko entitled: The Approach of the Therapist in Narrative Therapy

This idea of the client being expert in their life, and therefore they are in the best position to do something about it is illustrated in a Chassidic story related in a short video by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman about the Rizshener Rebbe.  Before Rosh Hashanna on of his students came to him saying, “Rebbe, I’ve done so many things wrong this year, and have done so many sins.  I want to repent and make amends, but I just don’t know how.  Please teach me how to repent!”  The Rebbe looked at him and said: “Did someone teach you how to sin?  Of course not, you figured it out for yourself.  So you can also figure out how to repent.”  In the video, Rabbi Trugman explains that the lesson the Rizshener Rebbe was teaching his student is that ultimately the person has to teach himself how to repent, because no one else knows one’s heart than the person himself.

So this is the position that we strive for in our work.  Every person knows their own heart better than anyone else.  Our job is to help the client to realize that he is the expert on his own heart and his own life, and in him resides the expert knowledge and the ability the change for the better.

by Rachel Berko

The Therapist Seeing the Clients as the Experts

The research on narrative therapy, spearheaded by Michael White and David Epston, has struggled to find an approach that would relate to clients in a meaningful, positive way.  The development of narrative therapy has moved away from advice giving, diagnosis and labeling, and away from the therapist being in the position of the expert. Narrative therapy aims to center people as the experts in their own lives Continue reading

by Batya Jacobs

Do you have a fussy eater? Are you treading a tightrope with a ‘difficult’ child? Is bed time bedlam? Has temper wheedled its way into your once-upon-a-time quiet house? Might the dreaded letters ADD and ADHD have threatened your peace of mind? Wow! Continue reading

Sign up for our newsletter