The Mindfulness Blog

subscribe to RSS feeds

« back to all blogs

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy was developed in the 1980's by an Australian social worker and a family therapist from New Zealand, and first gained traction in the United States in the 1990's. Which is a roundabout way of saying that it's a relatively new form of therapy.

Significantly, narrative therapy is non-pathologizing, and is based on the belief that our identities are shaped by the stories we tell about ourselves. Narrative therapy also views us as separate and distinct from our problems-- what a concept!

What really strikes me are the number of areas where narrative therapy overlaps with the practice of meditation (which, for me, is the practice that maximizes access to the state of awareness popularly referred to as mindfulness). Meditation as a therapeutic tool for modern psychologists-- who'd have thunk it?

First, neither meditation nor narrative therapy are about pathology, or medical diagnosis. Neither are appropriate means of treating what I refer to (in layman's language), as "hard" mental health conditions-- certainly not as a principle form of treatment. Rather, both meditation and narrative therapy are better employed in addressing what I refer to as "soft" mental health concerns like stress, free-floating anxiety, lack of focus, or burnout.

Second, just as any experienced meditator comes to learn (and narrative therapy teaches), we are not our thoughts and we are not our emotions. They are both very much "real" when we are thinking the thoughts, or feeling the emotions, but they're not us. As the brilliant psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl observed, between stimulus and response, there is a space. Both meditation and narrative therapy (as I understand it) seek to identify, and expand that space.

Third, meditation and narrative therapy both aim to help us to better manage our thoughts and emotions (the stories we tell ourselves), many of which are negative, because that's the way we humans are hard-wired. Learning to observe, and let things pass-- learning to see a problem as something that we have to deal with, as opposed to something we are-- are both tremendous tools that can help us manage, and cope.

Meditation teachers, like narrative therapists, don't pretend to be an independent "expert". Rather, they help others understand that they-- the students, or the patients-- are the experts best able to experience and assess the dreams, values, goals and skills that define who they really are, and who they want to be.

Narrative therapy, or meditation. A rose by any other name, is still a rose!


Categories: uncategorized
« back to all blogs



Name (required)
E-mail (required but not shown)


Blog Articles