What does this rating mean?
Narrative therapy is a type of counselling which focuses on how people view themselves. It is based on the idea that people make stories or narratives about themselves to help define and understand themselves and their life. In narrative therapy, people explore their ‘self-narratives’ with the help of a therapist to identify problems they may be having and develop more helpful ways of viewing their lives.
People who are depressed may hold negative views about themselves and view their life negatively. For example, they might focus only on the problems that have occurred in their lives. Narrative therapy aims to help people identify and construct stories about themselves that are more positive. This may improve help them to develop a more positive view about their lives, which could help to boost their mood.
There is very little scientific evidence on narrative therapy. Two small studies have compared narrative therapy to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) in groups of adults and young adults with depression. In both studies, people who received CBT experienced a greater reduction in depression symptoms.
Another study combined narrative therapy with emotion focused therapy to treat adults with depression. Compared to a control condition, those who received the treatment had increased levels of hope and positive emotion, and decreased levels of depression and negative emotion. All participants were also taking antidepressants.
All of the research on narrative therapy has only looked at small groups of people. Larger studies of better quality are needed to better understand the effectiveness of narrative therapy for depression.
Narrative therapy may involve seeing a therapist weekly for several months. It can be expensive, although in Australia Medicare provides rebates for visits to clinical psychologists, psychologists and other therapists (see below).
Narrative therapy is generally provided by therapists such as clinical psychologists, psychologists or counsellors who have been specially trained to provide this therapy (see Psychologists and other therapists). In Australia, Medicare provides rebates for visits to some therapists under the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme. Narrative therapy is generally not as widely available as other types of psychological therapies.
There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend narrative therapy as a treatment for depression.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019