How Does Narrative Therapy Help Heal Trauma?


A cartoon image of a boy using narrative therapy with a female therapist to help heal trauma and abuse

Narrative therapy empowers trauma and abuse survivors by helping them retell their stories in a healing way


Key takeaways:

  • Narrative therapy can help with a variety of traumatic mental states, including depression, anxiety, acute trauma, complex trauma, PTSD, grief, both acute and complex, and attachment issues.

  • It’s a survivor-centered modality that makes you the expert in your life.

  • Narrative therapy allows you to re-define your painful experiences in an empowering way.

  • It doesn’t rely on blaming or pathologizing.

  • Therapists help clients to act as observers when re-telling their stories.

  • Clients are then able to undergo the process of externalization, or separating themselves from their story.

  • Once clients gain clarity via externalization, they’re able to re-author and re-frame their stories in a new, empowering way that can lead to healing.

Humans have been telling stories since we were able to communicate. Our fascination with stories has transcended multiple mediums – from hieroglyphics found in ancient caves to the folktales passed down through generations. Today, we tell stories through a variety of platforms, using podcasts, books, social media, and blogs like the one you’re reading.

Perhaps some of the most important stories are the ones we are told about ourselves; that we are either led to believe about ourselves by others or that we tell ourselves about ourselves. These stories form our belief systems.

Narrative therapy is a unique form of person-centered therapy that centers the client as the expert in their own life, experiences, stories, and healing. A traumatic event can happen once but leave a lasting impact. Narrative therapy helps trauma and abuse survivors re-tell their stories in a way that heals. We explain narrative therapy and how it helps those who’ve experienced trauma and abuse.

What is narrative therapy?

Narrative therapy was developed by New Zealand-based social workers, Michael White and David Epston, in the 1980s. As mentioned, narrative therapy centers you, the client, as the expert in your story and your healing. While it may seem overwhelming to take responsibility for your own healing, consider it this way: you might have been powerless when the trauma happened to you, but now you are a survivor and you get to be in charge of your healing! You don’t have to be hopeless against the memory.

As we move through the world, whether we realize it or not, we assign meaning to experiences, events, and interactions we have. These, in turn, influence how we interact wi