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Therapy for Creatives, Part 1: Narrative Therapy

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

I'm often reminded of how similar situations or circumstances can evoke very different feelings. The image above is a good example: do you see two faces? Or one vase? The data remains the same, but our perception can be different at different times.

Similar circumstances can evoke radically different feelings as well. I can remember a time in my life when having one hundred dollars cash caused me to feel like the world was at my fingertips! Inflation notwithstanding, my sense of security evoked by one hundred dollars cash today is quite different!. The data is the same, but the story I attach to it has changed. It's the changing story that is the key to understanding the potential power of doing narrative therapy with creative clients. Narrative therapy is not limited to those who think creatively, but it can be an intuitive way to approach the work with that population. Psychodynamic therapy leverages significant positive change on the fulcrum of insight. Being able to see a situation in a new way has a fantastic power to positively impact mood, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  A common example of this principle at work would be reading a positive affirmation. Coming across the right saying at the right moment can evoke a whole new way of looking at challenges with hope instead of despair. "Be the change you want to see in the world!" It's hard not to feel a pleasant nudge towards empowerment when I read that phrase! My creative clients often have both the benefit and the challenge of creatively interpreting and organizing their world. A curious and creative mind can create wildly different narratives to make sense of feelings and actions of themselves and others. One day, the silence of a partner may evoke a sense of peaceful connection. In a different context, the same silence might feel like a scary disconnection. Narrative therapy offers insight into the underlying data of one's life. Curious consideration of the circumstances without knee-jerk judgment empowers the client to explore a more favorable interpretation of what may have been a difficult challenge. It's not an immediate shift into a false pollyanna-ish 'only-see-the-good-side' thinking. Instead, narrative therapy invites one into a space of being curious and hopeful, open to the idea that there may be desirable outcomes instead of terrible costs. This technique is particularly powerful for those who live in a creative frame.  With time, using narrative therapy, it is possible to learn to write--and experience--one's own personal, and deeply satisfying affirmations.

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