Narrative Theory

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Narrative Theory and Victims of Domestic Violence
Elena Murphy
San Francisco State University

Abstract
This paper examines online publications on narrative theory and therapy with domestic violence victims. It explores the history of narrative theory as well as what assumptions are made about individual and family clients when using the theory. The paper reviews the techniques that are used in narrative theory and then applies these techniques to a case study involving a victim of domestic abuse. The purpose of applying the use of narrative theory to a case is to examine how it is utilized in practice and how it can be used to empower a specific population.

Introduction
Women who have experienced domestic violence are not only forced to face the realities of the events in their own life, but face assumptions made by society. The stories they tell themselves about their own abuse are highly influenced by the norms and values of the culture they live in. In order for victims of abuse to become empowered in their day-to-day lives, they must first be given an opportunity to reframe their story in their own language. The use of narrative theory gives clients an opportunity to experience this empowerment. The following paper will outline the theory and apply it to the use of therapy for victims of domestic violence. History of the Theory

Narrative theory is a relatively new theory that began as an alternative form of family therapy (Hart, 1995). The major proponents of the theory were Michael White and David Epston. They began developing it in the 1980’s in Australia and New Zealand. The theory is based on postmodernist and post structural developments because it draws on the belief that the “self” is a personalized concept based on a person’s knowledge, beliefs and culture. It does not assume that a person’s experiences are an objective or absolute truth, but instead view them as a social construct (Hart, 1995). Additionally, it draws on existentialism, symbolic interactionism and multiculturalism (Walsh, 2009). Existentialism rejects the use of any particular system and instead celebrates the individual. It believes that the uniqueness of a person stems from their own individual experiences and that these qualities should be recognized. Symbolic interaction views peoples realities as socially constructed and multiculturalism celebrates the diversity of multiple cultures (Walsh, 2009)

White and Epston began his work using strategic therapy while working with families (Hart, 1995). This allowed them to use techniques that offer quick solutions to client problems. Strategic therapy focuses on looking at a problem from multiple perspectives and “externalizing the problem,” which takes blame off of individuals and instead attributes it to external factors. It also moves from a problem-focused reframe to a person-focused reframe, taking attention away from the problem itself and instead at what the problem means for the individual (Hart, 1995).

In addition to being exposed to techniques used in family therapy, White and Epston were strongly influenced by scholars from the fields of anthropology, oral history, sociology and social psychology (Furlong, 2008). By studying the work of such individuals as Alfred Schutz, Clifford Geertz, Jerome Bruner and Kenneth Gergen, they were exposed to theories that examined the cultural context of individual’s experiences and how language and storytelling influence and illuminate such experiences. Later in his career White became highly influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, a French philosopher and social theorist. Foucault’s theories looked at society’s role in an individuals self criticism. He argued that through language and other covert methods of control, society creates unrealistic standards that members feel the need to live up to. The inevitable failure to do so creates an unhealthy self-image...
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