Classmate Susan: Qt 3: What happens in the next session to achieve goals of NT?
The end goal for Narrative Theory (NT) counselors is to tear down a client’s current story replete with problems and to journey along side the client in re-authoring a story that the client desires (Murdock, 2017). The narrative that is preferred is what is called a unique outcome (Murdock, 2017). For example, Jim points out to Helen that she is adamant that Nagging Dissatisfaction has no place in her role as an attentive mother (Pearson, 2019). He spends considerable time asking her questions why that is the case, thickening the plot of a unique outcome. Jim then confirms if the way Helen mothers is what Helen would consider her preferred story (Pearson, 2019). Jim and Helen have already begun the re-authoring conversation.
Jim wrote a “readiness latter” to Helen that summed up their last session and asked her how he can assist her as she creates her new story. He also eluded to the possibility of getting others involved who can support her preferred story (Pearson, 2019).
The next session will most likely involve scaffolding. Now that Helen has distanced herself through externalization, she has a different perspective about the dominate story and is able to see perhaps more objectively and perhaps see more possibilities to her re-authored story (Murdock, 2017). Scaffolding’s purpose, according to White (as cited in Murdock, 2017), is the collaborative process of creating a personal initiative, creating a description of the effects of the unique outcome, evaluating the effects, and the client justifies the evaluation. Jim may continue to use relative influence questioning to reinforce unique outcomes (Murdock, 2017). By doing this Jim facilitates the “process of promoting an alternative story that might relate to strength-based behaviors” (Van Dyke, Jones, & Butman, 2011, p. 370). Additionally, Jim may use Landscape of Action and Landscape of Identity questions (White (2007) as cited in Murdock, 2017). This requires Helen to brainstorm outcomes in a time sequence and then reflect on what the re-storying might look like (Murdock, 2017).
Murdock, N.L. (2017). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: A case approach (custom package) (4th ed.). Upper Saddle Creek, NJ: Pearson.
Pearson (Producer). (2019). Narrative Therapy Session: Theories in action [Video file]. Available from http://media.pearsoncmg.com
Van Dyke, D., Lee, T., Jones, S.L., and Butman, R.E. (2011). Experiential therapies. In S.L. Jones, & R.E. Butman (Eds.), Modern psychotherapies: A comprehensive Christian appraisal (2nd ed.) (pp. 291-345). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press
Classmate 2: Victor
QUESTION: In line with Narrative Therapy techniques, describe how the counselor externalized Helen’s problems. Why is externalization so important in this session? How effective is it with Helen?
In watching this week’s video session with Jim and Helen, it was interesting to see how he was able to take the phrase “nagging dissatisfaction” that she used to describe her situation to reiterate and externalize what she is feeling. Towards the end of the video, Jim uses an illustration of something familiar to Helen. He talked about the context of a story and how it applied to the plot or the interest of the story. He asked Helen if she understood what he was referring to and how the session had affected her. She expressed that she was feeling hopeful. In narrative therapy, helping the individual to view their problems from a different context or another part of who they are is often enlightening to their situation and offers them hope. Murdock (2017) states that when counseling, it is crucial to view the client as having multiple selves to see “self” across multistoried and how they relate with one another (p. 485). Jim showed the effectiveness of this part of narrative therapy as he allowed Helen to externalize herself from her present form of discontent. He allowed her to follow the storyline of motherhood, as a daughter, a wife, and within herself. He is elaborating on how she is making changes in each of these areas of her life. Jim was giving Helen the tools she needed to develop the externalization of “the problem” without taking action against herself” (Murdock, 2017, p. 497). This form of externalization is so vital because it helps the client to abjectly see how their problem can be altered by thinking of their lives on many different levels and by rewriting their story through their dialogue. Equipping the client to feel good about the many areas they are dealing with and showing them clearly how they are being helped and not necessarily harmed by what they are feeling. The word of God encourages us to accept ourselves and our stories. “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14, ESV). God created each of us with a story. Through counseling we understand by taking a situation and addressing it from the many hats that people wear, we can equip them to believe in themselves and to know “God wonderfully made them” and with His help, their story can be beautiful.
Holy Bible, Eastern Standard Version
Murdock, N. L. (2017). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Case Approach [Pearson e Text] (4th ed.). Retrieved from https://etext.pearson.com/eplayer/pdfbook?bookid=101994&platform=1030&scenario=1 &invoketype=et1&pagenumber=199&bookserver=1&userid=&hsid=2de106d2b1317793 0eb985bb3c47860f&key=51512740224448417852019
Narrative Therapy. [Video file]. (n.d.). Pearson. Retrieved October 2, 2019, from http://media.pearsoncmg.com/pcp/21270572125/index.html?
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JIM’S LETTER TO HELEN
As I mentioned at the end of our meeting yesterday, I often write letters to people after
meeting with them to offer additional ideas. Because one idea often leads to another,
these letters can help people form their own thoughts for further discussion at our next
First of all, I want to say how very much I enjoyed meeting you and learning about this
new story you are writing for your life. It is clear that the old story where Nagging
Dissatisfaction had trapped you, so that you couldn’t move forward or backward, is a
story you are no longer willing to put up with. I suspect that Nagging Dissatisfaction
may have to find a different job than stirring up those disquieting feelings for you, or
pushing you to the point that you feel out of control and behave toward your children in
ways that don’t reflect what you love most about being a mother.
When you asked if I thought you’d need to be in therapy for the rest of your life, I said I
doubted it because most people in this country find what they are looking for in six or
fewer therapy sessions. After talking with you, I am even more confident that you are
unlikely to be in therapy for a long time. I base my opinion on how you have already
started realizing how passionate you are about the significant role you play in your
children’s lives as a “stay-at-home-mom,” and how much you love that role. You
beautifully described the great importance of your role in shaping their lives: you are
dedicated to helping them discover who they are, what they are passionate about, and
what dreams they have for their futures. As a parent myself, I can think of no job that is
more significant than this one, in which you have clearly invested so much of yourself.
I am very impressed that your dedication to your children’s current and future lives has
made it possible to prevent Nagging Dissatisfaction’s scare tactics and lies from further
intimidating and confusing you. As I thought about this dedication, I realized how
remarkable this feat is, given three things that you mentioned:
1. You were not “seen” in your family as you grew up, which can plant the seeds of doubt about one’s abilities and worth.
2. Your marriage “is not life giving” in terms of recognizing what is fulfilling for you, creating doubts about how much you can hope for in life.
3. Your mother appeared to be happy with her life story, which made it seem as if you should also be happy with your life story, despite your dissatisfaction.
Not giving in to Nagging Dissatisfaction seems even more remarkable when I consider
how our culture insinuates that being a stay-at-home-mom is never enough: “you should
be more.” It looks to me like Nagging Dissatisfaction used these three sensitive areas in
your life, teamed up with society’s message, to try to deceive and discourage you. It
appears that Nagging Dissatisfaction almost had you bullied into believing that “whatever
I do, it is never enough.” But you took away one of Nagging Dissatisfaction’s most
important tricks when you correctly noted that what may have been satisfying for your
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mother as a woman born in 1929, is not necessarily going to be satisfying for you as a
woman facing today’s challenges and opportunities.
Now that you have stalled Nagging Dissatisfaction’s initiative, I can’t help but wonder
how your realization about the significance of your role in helping your children move
forward in their own lives is likely to also help you rediscover your own passions and
dreams. I’m also wondering how this realization in turn is likely to help you move
forward in your life as well. However, doing so may stir up more of those disquieting
feelings like the troubling anger, fear, and longing you mentioned. As a mother, you
know that stirred emotions are to be expected with any transition. But I am concerned
that Nagging Dissatisfaction may try to use these feelings as a way of frightening you
into “going asleep” again, as it had in the past, so you won’t pay attention to what really
matters in your life.
On the other hand, the “hope” you mentioned, which brought tears to your eyes at the end
of our meeting, suggests to me that you are indeed staying awake and already beginning
to rewrite this story with more possibilities than Nagging Dissatisfaction could write for
you. Having heard the beginning of this new story that is so different than the one
Nagging Dissatisfaction had in mind, I have been wondering who in your life would not
be surprised that you’ve been able to break Nagging Dissatisfaction’s spell and instead
remember what really matters most to you. I mentioned how I thought catching on to
Nagging Dissatisfaction’s tricks may help you move forward; I have also been wondering
how this change is likely to benefit your children’s futures as well.
Something I wish I’d asked you during our meeting was how our conversation was going
for you. In particular, I wondered if the conversation was going in a useful direction, and
if there was anything I could have done that would have been more useful for you. I
welcome any thoughts you have about this question, because my best guesses about what
may be helpful may or may not really fit for you. You understand your life story as only
a woman and a mother can; being a man, I only can understand your story as an outsider.
I would very much appreciate your guidance in how I can be most helpful to you as you
learn how to keep Nagging Dissatisfaction from interfering with this new story that you
are writing for yourself and for your children.
I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts about these ideas I’ve offered, as well as any
ideas you have had about your changing story. I look forward to seeing you next week to
dialogue with you further.