SAGE Encyclopedia of Abnormal and Clinical Psychology
(Please refrain from quoting until Chapter is published in late Fall, 2015)
Anja Bjoroy, Stephen Madigan, David Nylund
In this paper, relational/ contextual/ anti-individualist therapeutic approaches of Narrative Therapy are contrasted with decontextualized, “skin-bound”, non-relational, individual-self oriented approaches. (Madigan, 1992, 2011).
The approach serves to add cultural contextualisation embracing wider anthropological factors that draw the problem from individualistic positioning and rather placing the emphasis in an externalising mode. References are made to the “politics of identity” (page 1) and relates to the individual right of story ownership. The theme of separation of person from problem is recurring and presents significant ideas of personal responsibility and of being subject to the problem behaviour rather than being a part of it. (Externalising the problem). This shift in perspective presents difficult in challenging the origins of tightly bound self-identity with the problem (in the researcher’s experience) in circumstances where automatic self-identification as the problem is persistent.
Narrative therapy in this context loosens these bindings by serving to present alternatives to the dominant story and allows opportunities for re-writing (or redrawing?) the narrative (Madigan and Epston, 1995; Madigan, 2007). In the researcher’s own artistic proposal, there are strong metaphors of rebuilding or reconstruction in the film narrative, and indeed the whole endeavour is manifestly a restructuring of the story around self-sabotage (where this is overcome). The paper raises the purpose of accountability to the “right to tell”, where the re-authoring process contrasts with therapeutic labelling (being told) In this sense, there is a cognitive reemphasising process of meaningful story points in self-identity thereby weakening the hold of the problem (Madigan, page 2).
The paper describes Faucault’s (1965) notions of the tussle of influence between person and problem, and the ramifications relating to how these ideas are codified in language. In the model presented (page 3), questions are designed to establish clear delineation, and challenge the primacy of the problem, prising out instances that counter the dominant perception. Narrative approaches are described as a means to contextualise the problem often seen as individualistic; reframing the emphasis around culturally and communally created issues, rather than the highly personalised and irrational views held that ascribe blame to the self.
Considering life without the problem
The exploration and suggestion of alternative stories invites space to reconsider the influence of the problem (page 4) and fosters the visualisation of contradictory evidence designed to challenge the dominant narrative. Once these initial hooks achieve traction, further questions allude to the “grammar of agency” (Page 4) where steps are uncovered as evidence of resistance, or of conscious efforts of control are retold.