by Rabbi Yosef Cornfeld, M.S.W.
The narrative metaphor is that of a story taking place over time. Does that mean that it has to be a spoken story? Therapy has been traditionally known as the “talking cure”. But in the Narrative metaphor we don’t necessarily want to be limited by the ability of the client to be expressive verbally. We want to be open to the possibilities of helping the client to develop the preferred story even if they are not verbally expressive. Along the same lines, we can help the person sitting opposite us even if we don’t fully understand their issues, as long as they feel that they are getting somewhere with it.
For example, some of us have worked with clients that had problems and memories that were so painful that they could not bring themselves to verbalize it in the session. Nevertheless, with externalization, we can talk about the problem, the effects of the problem, the relative influence of the problem, and ways to put the problem in its place. It could help the externalization process if we could give the problem a name. But if that is too difficult, often suggesting the name “no-name” will be acceptable. In this way we can help the client to deal with “no-name” without ever knowing what exactly the problem was.
Some ideas that have been tried include music and song. David Denborough has developed songs as a response to trauma and hardship, and has also developed a practice of community songwriting. In an article he wrote on the subject, he says that “the creation of community songs on gatherings can provide a source of hopefulness and can sustain and support the alternative stories of the spoken word.” The article can be found here. He also presents
Some of us have experimented with song with individual clients. A song could help the client to express problem saturated stories, or to sing the praises of the preferred story. It might be helpful to use an already existing tune, or an existing genre, such as for a problem story “singing the blues”. (For the preferred could it be singing the “yellows”?” Or it may be more useful to just make up that tune as you go along.
Other ideas that have been presented have been to explore non-verbal experience, such bodily sensation. We in the staff of JNTI are exploring different methods of how to access these body experiences, for both the problem stories and preferred stories. Hopefully in the coming weeks we will have more to write about that here.