In narrative therapy, says Australian therapist Zoy Kazan, 'the person is freed from the burden of seeing the problem within him or herself.' Rather than dwelling on the presenting issue -- be it anorexia, obsessive-compulsive syndrome, or sexual abuse -- clients are encouraged to 'construct a new story that takes in all their strengths, and the ways they've stood up to the problem,' she says.
Narrative therapy also externalizes problems by focusing attention on their larger social and cultural contexts. For example, plenty of gays and lesbians are depressed, especially as teens, because of how society continues to pathologize homosexuality. 'If you grow up in a family, school, or church that believes homosexuality is wrong, the logical next step is to think you're not an okay person,' explains Kazan.
Because narrative therapy is not concerned with having patients re-experience their traumas, it can be a quicker way to get mental piece of mind than more traditional methods. For this reason, as well as for its newfound popularity, some critics suggest it's just another quick-fix fad therapy driven by managed care cost-cutting. While Kazan denies that narrative therapy is all about brevity, she acknowledges that when 'you don't have to peel off all the layers of the onion,' therapy can be shorter. However, she sees both narrative's brevity, and its proven effectiveness, as advantageous -- as most patients probably will as well.