How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Heal Trauma

Here in this post, we are discussing “How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Heal Trauma”.  You can read more about psychology-related material on our website. Keep visiting Psychology Roots.
According to experts, traumatic experiences are characterised by an array of emotional responses to the following:

  • an isolated incident, such as a theft or violent conduct
  • catastrophes on a massive scale, such as a war or a natural disaster
  • incidents that occur repeatedly, like the maltreatment of a kid.

However it began, the repercussions of trauma that goes unaddressed may be both immediate and long-lasting. It has the potential to upend one’s sense of self, social circle, and worldview. It may also cause periods of forgetfulness or “fog” in your mind.
It might be difficult to process one’s thoughts after experiencing a traumatic event. However, narrative therapy, one method for overcoming trauma, might help you gain insight into your history and make your memories more manageable. You may find it easier to comprehend and live with the traumatic experiences you went through if you have a more complete image of them, or narrative.

How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Heal Trauma
How Narrative Therapy Can Help You Heal Trauma

What are the fundamentals?

Narrative therapy is predicated on the idea that people make sense of their experiences by arranging them into narratives. The goal of narrative therapy is to modify present-day responses to the client’s previous experiences via the use of the client’s narratives.
There is a wide variety of conditions that may benefit from the use of narrative therapy.

The term “narrative exposure treatment” refers to a specific kind of story therapy used to treat PTSD (NET). In 2005, NET was created by Maggie Schauer, Frank Neuner, and Thomas Elbert to aid immigrants and torture survivors.
Complex PTSD, the result of either protracted injury or exposure to several traumatic experiences, is the primary target of NET treatment. Experts use the term “complex trauma” to describe situations where several incidents have caused distress that has compounded into a greater whole.
Despite its organised nature, NET may be used in a variety of settings, with a wide range of clientele (both children and adults).


What is the process?

Your body’s first concern during a stressful incident is staying alive. Thereby, it may put off less critical processes like digestion and memory encoding. The development of PTSD has been linked to the formation of fragmented recollections of stressful events, according to researchers. Certain mental and physical experiences, such as a sudden terror or excruciating pain, may be particularly simple to remember. However, other elements, such as the time and place of the occurrence, may be harder to pin down.
But without this background information, your brain is at a loss as to how to file away the memory. There may not be a better way to classify this, however it might relate the traumatic experience to specific elements of the senses, such as:

  • one of the songs playing on the radio
  • conditions (smoke, weather)
  • It’s very possible that the memory floats about in your consciousness, waiting for some trigger to bring it back to life.

This is where story therapy may be helpful. It’s a method that may assist clear your mind of unnecessary information. Narrative therapy encourages you to construct the background of the story before attempting to recollect the event, which might alleviate some of the pressure associated with memory recall. In other words, you lay down your whole life history. Next, you may put together the painful experiences to fill in the blanks.
By doing this, you may provide your brain a concrete context in which to put the terrible memories. The dangers you formerly encountered may become part of your history rather than a constant reminder of what could have been. Keeping such recollections confined to your story may help diminish their influence.
Putting your life’s events in order might also help you analyse painful situations more objectively. The meaning of past experiences changes depending on the circumstances.

What to expect from therapy

Your therapist may spend the first session of NET describing the process and providing further background on the neurological effects of trauma. The process of narrative exposure may then commence. Obviously, you need to start from the very beginning. As could be expected, the story will begin with your infancy and continue through your youth and into your adult years.

  • You will concentrate on the period of your life that contains the painful events. If you had traumatic events as a youngster, you may spend a great deal of time dwelling on those times. But if you had a traumatic famine in your forties, you could gloss over your formative years and jump forward to your midlife years.
  • In doing so, you will relive painful experiences. Tell your therapist everything that happened, since they may want to know the specifics. They will listen as you recount what happened and provide assistance in reducing the effects of stress on your body and keeping difficult emotions in check. In other words, they serve as a kind of mental “lifeguard,” always on standby to save you if you go into trouble.
  • With the help of your therapist, you’ll go through the specifics. Your therapist will transcribe the conversation after each session so that you have a record of what has transpired so far. To make sure they captured everything accurately and to fill in any gaps in your story from the initial telling, they may examine the transcript with you at the following session.
  • These regulated recalls allow your brain a second opportunity to appropriately retain the memory and help your body unlearn its fight-or-flight response to specific trauma triggers.
  • Your therapist will have you repeat the exposure technique until the allotted time has passed. The therapist and you will go through your tale together and talk about where it may go from here in the last session.

Upon completion of therapy, your therapist will hand you the whole autobiography for you to use as you see fit.

STAIR narrative therapy

Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIR) story therapy may help you learn to better regulate your emotions and communicate effectively after experiencing childhood trauma that impaired your social and emotional development.
The average duration of STAIR story therapy, which incorporates narrative therapy and skills training, is 16 sessions. The normal flow of a session looks like this:

  • In sessions 1 and 2, you’ll work on developing your ability to recognise and name your feelings.
  • In sessions three and four, you’ll develop skills for handling difficult feelings on your own.
  • In sessions 5 through 8, you’ll work on developing your confidence in expressing yourself clearly and establishing genuine connections with others.
  • From sessions 9-16, you’ll keep working on your story and include emotional coping methods as necessary.

Is there any truth to the claim that it works?

Narrative exposure treatment (NET) seems to be a good way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sixteen randomised controlled trials including 947 people were included in a 2019 literature review. Major reductions in PTSD symptoms were seen right away after therapy. The outcomes were maintained during the 9-52 week post-treatment follow-up periods.
Further, NET seemed more beneficial than non-trauma-focused therapies. Researchers and clinicians are still trying to determine how well NET compares to other trauma-focused therapies via randomised controlled studies.
Not only is NET very effective, but it also has the ability to provide the following advantages:

  • Success in keeping dropout rates to a minimum. The vast majority of patients finish their prescribed course of treatment.
  • Length. Four sessions might be all it takes to see progress.
  • Convenience. This method may be used by therapists whether they are face-to-face or not. Additionally, there is no “treatment homework” expected of you.
  • Narrative of your life. The therapist helps you compile and document your life’s highlights so you may save them for the future.


Prolonged exposure therapy is presently considered the gold standard treatment for PTSD, and researchers have seen parallels between the two. With the help of your therapist, you will work through your trauma by facing your fears and confronting your memories of the event, the people and the locations associated with it.
Both techniques, according to the authors of a 2014 review, may be useful in dealing with trauma. Yet while prolonged exposure therapy appears highly effective as a treatment for PTSD, NET may prove more beneficial for treating CPTSD, particularly among refugees and people seeking asylum.

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