Counselling

Counselling

1 Do you feel that your work/life has gone off course? Due, perhaps, to sudden or unexpected job loss, toxic work stress, or career confusion.
1 Do you feel the need to confide or seek direction regarding work-related anxiety, depression, instability, career malaise? Are work-related issues causing you insomnia, digestive dysfunction, skin rashes, or other psychosomatic disorders?
1 Is the lack of meaning or purpose in your work challenging your identity, faith, or confidence?

It is important to understand that narrative counselling facilitates a conversation between your inner and outer worlds to show you how your personal identity and choices are “constructed” not only by your decisions along the way but by social expectations as well.

For example, in our society, it is normal to conform to the expectations of others, instead of learning how to find personal power and meaning in life. Most of us learn early in life to act on what others—parents, teachers, family, experts–say, value and expect. We usually aim at becoming something without ever taking the time to shape our own identity.

So we follow others into the family business, or the military, or a profession, or we listen to subtle messages that steer us into a particular career: “my mother said I was good with people and belong in the caring profession”; “my father always said I no good at finishing things”; “you can’t make any money at doing what I love!”

In some ways it easier to do what others tell us: “In order to get ahead in life, I need good grades in school, so I will tell my teacher what s/he wants to hear, jump through the hoops, get it over and done with, so I can do the same thing in a job—and get paid for it.”

In other words, what our parents tell us, what society expects of us, what skills are required by the economy—is rational—and if we don’t conform to those messages, then we, as individuals, are irrational!

This dilemma often creates inner conflicts with external consequences, including the conditions listed in the checked boxes above.

Before proceeding with counselling/therapy, it is necessary to have an exploratory session to discuss your issue. Call 613-563-0584.

Narrative counselling or therapy is designed:

  • to help you resolve certain work/life issues;
  • to give you a better understanding of your personal life story in its many dimensions and how it shapes or influences your work, career, relationships, and life;
  • to repair your story;
  • to create a better life.

Narrative counselling can clear space in your life to generate a new beginning, a new work identity, a new role in society, or new opportunities.

Research

During the past 25 years, over 200 scientific studies have been published pointing to the power of narrative therapy to positively affect biological processes (including immune function) associated with health and illness. In addition, the power of expressive exercises, involving both emotional and cognitive topics, has benefited many individuals dealing with a range of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual issues, such as cancer, heart disease, depression, cystic fibrosis, asthma, arthritis, alienation, isolation, and more.

It is interesting to note that even in this age of Prozac and Zoloft, one of the most common ways of dealing with depression is by talking with a psychotherapist. According to the psychologist Michele Crossley, depression frequently stems from an “incoherent story,” an “inadequate narrative account of oneself,” or “a life story gone awry.” Psychotherapy helps unhappy people set their life stories straight; it literally gives them a story they can live with. And it works. According to a recent review article in American Psychologist, controlled scientific studies show that the talking cure works as well as (and perhaps much better than) newer therapies such as antidepressant drugs or cognitive-behavioral therapy. A psychotherapist can therefore be seen as a kind of script doctor who helps patients revise their life stories so that they can play the role of protaganist again—suffering and flawed protagonists, to be sure, but protaganists who are moving toward the light.”
– From The Storytelling Animal, by Jonathan Gottschall (p.175)

How does it work?

The narrative approach to counselling is by having clients tell their stories–through structured oral interviews and/or through written exercises.

It is distinguished from other counseling methods by a process that follows certain key steps:

  • starts with a notion that you are not the problem as an individual with a particular diagnosis of ‘maladaptive’ psychosocial disorder
  • aims at sharing and creating an understanding through a personal story, rather than pathologizing your behavior
  • uses a structured process to capture and map the story lines that make up your life story
  • links together those stories to analyze common problem pieces
  • interprets your stories using certain narrative theories and methods to help solve problems & create new meaning or purpose, as identified by you, the client, and me, as professional helper, in a partnership
  • revises or reauthors your story by addressing the backdrops of actions, choices, values, feelings, motives, beliefs, and attitudes that recur in it
  • activates that story towards ‘healing’ the wounds that come with living in this world
  • helps you integrate this ‘new’ or ‘second’ story within a larger social, cultural or ethnic web of belonging, your relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and others.
  • motivates you to make, create, and achieve new life choices.

Narrative therapy uses certain expressive exercises–including writing, movement, sound–to show you how the facts of the past are shaped by memory and imagination to serve the needs of present consciousness. Stories about the past or present open up conversations about our values, beliefs, and purposes so that we have an opportunity to consider a wide range of choices and attach new meaning to our past and present experiences. Then we work together to ‘construct’ an alternative identity and work/life options.

In short, your current personal narrative is deconstructed so that a more adaptive story can be re-authored, a new or second story that gives you more power to make effective changes in your work and life, including better relationships with yourself and others.

George Dutch has conducted hundreds of individual and 250+ group psychotherapy sessions in Ottawa since 1992. He is conducting a major research project (through Athabasca University’s Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences) on the effectiveness of the life story or narrative approach for work/life change. He is a member of a national counselling & psychotherapy association.