What Is Narrative Therapy?

Psychotherapy, often simply called therapy or talk therapy, uses research-based techniques to help people lead better lives and work through difficulties. An estimated 1 in 10 U.S. adults sees a counselor or therapist.

There are many different approaches and styles of psychotherapy, but what most of them have in common is that they're a collaborative relationship between the client and therapist. Narrative therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps people identify their values and skills in order to create new possibilities in their lives.

Read on to find out more about narrative therapy, how it works, and who it might help.

talk therapy

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What Is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy was developed in the 1980s by two social workers and therapists, Michael White and David Epston. The technique views problems as separate from the individual, and it recognizes a person's innate ability to work through those problems. Through conversations with a therapist, the person can reframe past events, realize their full potential, and rewrite their life stories.

How It Works

We all have certain events or stories from our lives that become central to who we are, such as “I’ve always been sad,” or “That traumatic event changed everything.” In narrative therapy, you and a therapist work together to closely examine these stories and look for problematic themes.

The goal is to stop centering your identity around these problematic stories. Over time, you'll come to see that you have many different stories to tell. By identifying your values and unique strengths, you'll be able to see new possibilities in your life.

What It Can Help With

This style of therapy is versatile: It can be used with individuals, couples, and families. It may even be used in group settings. Research has shown that narrative therapy can be effective in treating certain conditions, including:


Therapists who work from a narrative therapy framework place an importance on telling one’s story as a modality for change. The client and the therapist identify problematic storylines and work to rewrite them. This can help people who are struggling with trauma or other issues to move forward with their lives.

The therapist can:

  • Help clients identify problems
  • Set the problems in a larger sociocultural context
  • Teach clients how to make room for alternative stories

This mode of therapy helps people see that their lives are not made up of a single storyline—they contain many stories, and there are many different aspects of their lives. This can help them reframe negative attitudes and thoughts they have about past events.

What Does It Do?

This form of therapy helps clients separate themselves from their past experiences. Doing so helps them develop self-confidence and problem-solving tools.


Therapy costs can depend on many variables: where you live, whether your insurance plan covers it, the type of provider you are seeing, whether they have a sliding scale fee, and more. Without insurance coverage, a single therapy session can cost as much as $250, according to Good Therapy, an online resource that helps people find the right therapist for them.

Who Should Avoid It?

Narrative therapy may not be appropriate for those with intellectual disabilities, and people with language or communication issues may find other types of therapy to be more helpful. It's possible to combine narrative therapy with other techniques like music, dance, or art therapy to encourage nonverbal expression.

If you have questions about whether narrative therapy is the right fit for you, talk with the therapist. Ask them questions about how appropriate this therapy is for your situation. A good therapist will be honest, and if need be, refer you to a different clinician who might be a better fit.


Narrative therapy helps people reframe and rewrite the traumatic or problematic stories of their lives and move forward with different narratives. It has been shown to be effective for anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other conditions, and it may be a viable option for many people.

A Word From Verywell

Although there are studies showing narrative therapy’s efficacy, it’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. One of the most important factors that determines whether any type of therapy will be successful is the relationship between the therapist and the client. It's important that you work with someone you feel comfortable with. If you and your therapist aren't clicking, don't feel bad about changing to a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much does therapy cost?

    The cost of therapy can vary widely, depending on the kind of therapist you go to, the geographical area in which you live, whether a therapist has sliding scale rates, and much more. Without insurance, a session can cost upwards of $250.

  • Will insurance cover narrative therapy?

    It depends on whether the therapist partners with insurance companies. If they are an in-network provider, then your insurance plan should cover part or all of it, and you will pay a co-pay. If they do not partner with your insurance provider, you might be able to submit a claim for out-of-network benefits and be partly reimbursed. Check your summary of benefits for details about what your plan covers.




10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental Health Treatment Among Adults: United States, 2020.

  2. American Psychological Association. Therapy.

  3. Narrative Therapy Centre. About narrative therapy.

  4. APA Dictionary of Psychology. Narrative therapy.

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  6. Ghavibazou E, Hosseinian S, Abdollhai A. Effectiveness of narrative therapy on communication pattern for women experiencing low marital satisfaction. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy. 2020;41(2):195-207. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/anzf.1405

  7. Fatahi N, Bardideh M, Biglou RTB, et al. The effectiveness of narrative therapy on reducing behavior problems and improving self-perception in students. Quarterly Journal of Child Mental Health. 2021;7(4):297-312. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.52547/jcmh.7.4.19

  8. Erbes CR, Stillman JR, Wieling E, Bera W, Leskela J. A pilot examination of the use of narrative therapy with individuals diagnosed with PTSD. Journal of Traumatic Stress. 2014;27(6):730-733. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.21966

  9. Good Therapy. How much does therapy cost?

  10. Lyons S, Karkou V, Roe B, Meekums B, Richards M. What research evidence is there that dance movement therapy improves the health and wellbeing of older adults with dementia? A systematic review and descriptive narrative summary. The Arts in Psychotherapy. 2018;60:32-40. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2018.03.006