Narrative Therapy

Format: DVD [Closed Captioned]
Running Time: Over 100 minutes
Item #: 4310810
ISBN: 978-1-4338-0122-8
List Price: $99.95
Member/Affiliate Price: $69.95
Copyright: 2008
Availability: In Stock
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APA Psychotherapy Training Videos are intended solely for educational purposes for mental health professionals. Viewers are expected to treat confidential material found herein according to strict professional guidelines. Unauthorized viewing is prohibited.

In Narrative Therapy, Dr. Lynne Angus demonstrates her approach to psychotherapy. Researchers and practitioners from many backgrounds have identified client narrative expression as the common ground of social discourse in psychotherapy. Narrative therapy focuses on the client's understanding of his or her own story and how the client's emotions, actions, and problems fit into the context of the story. This approach seeks to reach one of three goals: to put "untold" aspects of the client's past into the life narrative, help clients emotionally enter and reauthor their own stories, or help clients construct new meanings in relation to stories that may emerge in therapy.

In this session, Dr. Angus works with a client suffering from depression who has boundary issues with her family. Dr. Angus helps the client to "own" her story and recognize her own agency in improving her life.


Drawing on the assumptions of a dialectical–constructivist model of therapeutic change (Greenberg & Angus, 2004), Dr. Angus views productive client narrative expression as arising from a dialectical interplay of autobiographical memory storytelling, emotional differentiation, and reflexive meaning-making processes. Each of the three narrative process modes also have a corresponding therapeutic goal:

  • helping clients translate lived stories into told stories in order to fill in the gaps of what has been forgotten or never fully storied, and hence, understood;
  • helping clients experientially "relive" and more fully enter their own stories with an aim to accessing, symbolizing, and differentiating primary emotions and articulating new understandings of lived experiences; and
  • helping clients reflect on and construct new meanings in relation to new emotions and stories emerging in the therapy hour and support self-narrative reconstruction in light of the emergence of new perspectives on self and others.

Taken together, Dr. Angus believes that the three narrative modes and their accompanying therapeutic goals contribute to the development of more coherent, emotionally differentiated personal narratives that provide clients with a greater understanding of themselves and their interactions with others in the world. She has found that the establishment of a strong therapeutic bond is an essential precondition for a client to disclose salient personal memories to a therapist and, in turn, for a therapist to empathically enter the experiential world of a client's felt emotions, meanings and beliefs.

It is through narrative expression that clients externalize emotionally salient past experiences so that "lived stories" become "told stories" (Stern, 2004) and can then be shared with others and reflexively looked back upon for further understanding and meaning-making. The narrative organization of emotional experiences supplies a temporal, sequential timeframe that helps clients to identify a beginning, middle, and end to their story so that causal connections between actions and emotions can be identified and meaningfully understood.

In her work with clients, Dr. Angus has found that personally significant narratives are often marked by the expression and evocation of emotions, and so she listens for stories that are emotionally charged and experientially alive as a productive focus for further emotional exploration and meaning-making in the therapy hour. As the significance of emotions can only be understood when organized within a narrative framework that identifies what is felt, about whom, and in relation to what need or issue, Dr. Angus has also found it important to help clients "story" disconnected emotional experiences for further self-understanding and meaning-making. When clients shift from reactive maladaptive emotions to accessing primary, adaptive emotional responses when telling their stories, the emotional meaning of those stories begins to change.

Dr. Angus believes that the construction of new emotional meanings emerging from primary adaptive emotions is a primary mechanism of story change in psychotherapy. As such, she uses both narrative and emotion markers for the identification of key processing task during the therapy hour, and she has found the strategic use of open-ended, scaffolding questions to be an invaluable tool when engaging clients in productive story-telling, meaning-making, and emotional differentiation processes.

Finally, while it is important to focus on client stories of distress, disappointment, and emotional pain for self-narrative change, it is equally important to help clients identify and story personal experiences of resilience, hope, and positive outcomes that challenge negative views of self and enhance a sense of client agency and desire for personal change.

About the Therapist

Lynne Angus, PhD, CPsych, is a professor of clinical psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and is the immediate past-president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, North American Chapter. She is the senior editor of the Handbook of Narrative and Psychotherapy: Practice, Theory and Research (with J. MacLeod, 2004) and has published more than 40 research articles and chapters relating to the contributions of narrative expression and metaphor in psychotherapy. In addition, her research interests have focused on the empirical assessment of narrative organization and emotional expression in effective therapeutic treatments of depression.

She is the originator of the Narrative Processes Coding System (NPCS) that was codeveloped with Heidi Levitt and Karen Hardtke. The NPCS has been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, Finnish, and German, and is currently being used in several international psychotherapy research initiatives. Both her approach to therapeutic practice and ongoing research program are centrally concerned with understanding the importance of client narrative expression for experiences of significant self-change in psychotherapy.

Suggested Readings
  • Angus, L., & Greenberg, L. (in press). Working with narrative and emotion in emotion-focused therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Angus, L., & McLeod, J. (2004). Handbook of narrative and psychotherapy: Practice, theory and research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Mahoney, M. (1991). Human change processes: The scientific foundations of psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
  • Neimeyer, R., & Mahoney, M. (1999). Constructivism in psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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