Training in Narrative Therapy: 21 Courses & Online Options

Narrative Therapy TrainingThe stories we tell ourselves can be incredibly powerful.

When we speak of ourselves negatively, place blame on others, or compare our past selves to our present selves, we are crafting narratives that have the potential to affect how we feel, what we do, and our relationships with others.

If you’re a great believer in the power of stories as a catalyst for change, narrative therapy may be a rewarding career pathway for you.

Narrative therapy practitioners are extremely skilled at helping clients understand their life stories so that they can rework these narratives to achieve positive change.

In this article, we’ll give a rundown of some of the top narrative therapy training courses and programs out there, with a huge list of online options.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.

Training in Narrative Therapy 101

Life is not simply a collection of disconnected and isolated events. Our lives, as we understand them and talk about them, are our life stories. Every memory we have is incorporated into a tapestry of connected experiences that together say something meaningful about who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.

Narrative therapy assumes we are all experts in our own lives, and that fundamentally, stories are the primary way we make sense of things (Dulwich Centre Publications, n.d.; Wallis, Burns, & Capdevila, 2011).

Narrative approaches enable change through the telling and retelling of life stories. The therapist’s role is to facilitate insight and understanding into the individual’s life stories and then work with them to ‘re-author’ these stories (Dulwich Centre Publications, n.d.).

Although you may consider all talking therapies to be narrative in some shape or form, training in narrative therapy is a unique and established therapeutic approach (Wallis et al., 2011).

Some people choose to pursue a career solely as a narrative therapist, while others may wish to add another skill to their toolkit and integrate narrative practices into their work as a social worker, family therapist, or marriage counselor.

Michael White and David Epston (1990) pioneered the narrative therapy approach. A defining feature of their perspective was that problems are external to people. Recognizing that people’s identities are not enmeshed with their problems is critical for creating space for positive change.

Narrative practices may look different depending on the therapist and the client involved. Narrative therapy is inherently a context-sensitive approach, so therapists may need to change tack and adjust their practices depending on the individual they’re working with (Etchison & Kleist, 2000).

In addition, as with other therapeutic approaches, the therapist shapes their own narrative practices according to their values and the philosophies, theories, and perspectives they identify with (Dulwich Centre Publications, n.d.).

That being said, Wallis et al. (2011) found that narrative therapists tend to agree on some core features of the approach:

  • Social-cultural and political contexts are important to understand the ‘problem.’
  • Narratives are socially constructed. They are not objective, but shaped through our social interactions.
  • Stories can be re-authored to bring about insight and change.

 

9 Courses and Programs to Consider

Narrative Therapy CoursesIntrigued by narrative therapy?

There are many courses and programs in narrative therapy offered globally, ranging in level, duration, and price. Below, we’ve listed some of our top picks to consider.

 

Evanston Family Therapy Center

This Chicago-based therapy center offers a range of workshops and training options in narrative therapy.

One-year narrative therapy training course (in person and online)

The in-person option involves three 5-day sessions across the year, and the online version meets for four 3-hour sessions over 8 weekends.

The syllabus involves practical and taught elements. Among many teaching outcomes, students will learn how to work with stories, conduct interviews, gain insight into the importance of culture in stories, and shape their practice according to the context and interests of the people they work with.

Find out more on their website.

 

Dulwich Centre Training

Dulwich

The Dulwich Centre in Adelaide, Australia, is one of the best institutions for narrative therapy training and has garnered high acclaim internationally.

There are online options available, and certain training programs are also offered in other international locations. See the website for details about workshops and courses in China, Greece, Rwanda, Hong Kong, Palestine, Singapore, and Turkey.

One-year training program in narrative therapy & community work

This year-long course involves two weeklong intensive teaching blocks online and in person. The first block is a great foundation for those starting in narrative practice. The second teaching block incorporates more exercises to develop skills in narrative practice.

An additional online learning component encourages students to connect what they learn in the classroom to their own contexts.

Find out more on their website.

Master’s in narrative therapy and community work

This program is perfect for professionals already working with individuals, families, and communities who wish to expand their therapeutic repertoire.

Run in partnership with the University of Melbourne, this program is open to international and local students and can be delivered online, with in-person hubs available in numerous countries.

The course involves two intensive two-week teaching blocks and other online learning events.

The qualification focuses on three core areas:

  • Advanced narrative skill development
  • The art of narrative practice
  • Narrative practice and research synthesis

There are some entry requirements, including a relevant undergraduate degree and two years of work experience. Scholarships are available.

Find out more on their website.

One-week intensives (Levels 1 and 2)

Michael White himself originally delivered these comprehensive weeklong training courses.

Level 1 is for people less familiar with narrative therapy who wish to immerse themselves in the theoretical and philosophical basis of narrative therapy. Topics include ‘Externalizing conversations,’ ‘Re-authoring conversations,’ and ‘Listening for alternative storylines.’

Level 2 expands on these teachings with more skill-based work, such as exploring the use of narrative ideas in a range of contexts and tailoring practices to suit the individual.

Find out more on their website.

 

The Institute of Narrative Therapy

INT

Founded in 2009, the Institute of Narrative Therapy in the United Kingdom offers a range of training options in person and online.

Level 1

This five-day foundational course covers theories of narrative therapy and how to incorporate them into your work.

Examples of course modules include ‘The story metaphor in therapy’ and ‘Re-authoring lives.’

Skill-building content such as question structures and exploring the wider contexts of an issue are also covered. No prior experience or qualifications are necessary.

Find out more on their website.

Level 2

Building on Level 1 training, this five- to six-day course covers more advanced elements of narrative therapy while revising core concepts from Level 1.

Modules include ‘Trauma,’ ‘Power, context and discourse,’ and ‘Supervision.’ Completion of Level 1 or equivalent is required.

Find out more on their website.

Level 3

If you want to level up your narrative practice skills even further, but don’t want to commit to a diploma, you can opt for one-off training modules in Level 3 without submitting written assignments.

Modules for this course are five days long and typically expand on topics in Level 2, such as ‘Clinical Practice,’ ‘Working with children, young people and families,’ and ‘Working with the effects of trauma.’

Levels 1 and 2 (or equivalent) are required.

Find out more on their website.

Diploma

This is a two-year (or more) comprehensive course in narrative therapy and involves five Level 3 modules and written assignments. The taught elements run over two years, after which you complete a ‘Practice Assessment’ module, which includes a recorded practice and two written assignments. Levels 1 and 2 are required to be eligible.

Find out more on their website.

 

Caspersen Therapy Training Center

Caspersen

The Caspersen Center, based in Minnesota, offers a seven-month course in narrative therapy and welcomes people from all helping professions.

Level 1 Narrative Therapy Certificate program

To complete the course, you need a minimum of 17 hours of workshop training (3 out of 4 workshops) and 21 group practice hours.

Workshops are hosted online by speakers, authors, therapists, and social workers from around the globe.

There are seven practice groups, each three hours long, that aim to help students put their narrative therapy skills into action. These sessions can happen online or in person and are suitable for international students.

Reading and reflection assignments are given throughout, and a final reflection paper is required to gain a certificate.

Find out more on their website.

 

12 Best Online Training Options

Many educators have recently created online options for students. As well as being more convenient, this also provides an opportunity for non-local students to learn and train from the comfort of their own homes.

 

Dulwich Centre Training

Dulwich

Not sure yet whether to commit to a training course? Check out the free course from the Dulwich Centre below.

Free Course: What Is Narrative Practice?

If you want to dip your toe in the narrative therapy sea, the Dulwich Centre offers a free online course to get you up to speed with the basics of narrative therapy.

There are nine lessons in total, and you can work through them at your own pace. Some topics covered include ‘The Narrative Metaphor,’ ‘Histories,’ and ‘Critical Thinking.’ You’ll find many glowing student testimonials on the site.

Find out more on their website about this specific course.

 

Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy

Vancouver

The Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy was the first institute of narrative therapy training to open north of the equator and boasts a world-class teaching faculty. You don’t need to live in Canada to benefit from the wealth of expertise at the school.

Foundations of Theory and Practice

Facilitated by a highly skilled group of therapists and scholars, this foundational online course takes place over five days.

There is a strong philosophical component to the sessions and a range of fascinating topics are covered, including ‘Therapeutic Letter Writing and Live Counter-Story Demonstration Interview’ and ‘Narrative Therapy with Couples.’

Find out more on their website.

Applied Skills for Narrative Practice, Level 1

This three-day online course offers hands-on skill sessions in interviewing and narrative practice.

This course is suitable for narrative therapists already practicing and builds on learning from the foundational five-day course above.

Find out more on their website.

Advanced Narrative Practice

This online course takes place over five days and is open to students at all levels of practice.

Workshops focus on advanced skills such as relational interviewing in couple relationships, narrative practices with grief, conversations about trauma and violence, and producing normativity (e.g., exploring discourse, power, intersectionality, and performativity).

Find out more on their website.

VSNT.live

If you don’t want to commit to a training course but still want to learn more about narrative therapy or boost your skills on an ad hoc basis, the Vancouver School offers an interactive learning platform, full of videos, demonstrations, recorded lectures, and more.

Find out more on their website.

 

Evanston Family Therapy Center

The Evanston Family Training Center offers two further online training courses for those starting out in narrative therapy.

Introduction to Narrative Therapy

This six-hour beginner’s workshop covers the foundations of narrative practice and offers an affordable starting point.

Find out more on their website.

Level 1 Intensive

A step-up from the introductory course, this intensive training offers more practical experience in narrative therapy and more hours of taught content and online study. The course takes place over two weekends in eight 3-hour blocks.

Find out more on their website.

 

Re-Authoring Teaching

Re-authoring

If you’re short on time, you can sign up for a range of online self-paced courses with Re-Authoring Teaching, with each lesson only taking two hours.

An Introduction to Rich Story Development

This is a six-lesson beginner’s guide to narrative therapy, covering foundational elements such as narrative metaphor, making links, and landscapes of stories.

Find out more on their website.

Rich Story Development in Action

This is a follow-up course from the introductory lessons above. Across five lessons, you explore three narrative interviews “in action” to further build your understanding and skills in narrative development.

Find out more on their website.

Narrative Therapy: Foundations and Key Concepts

This six-lesson course covers the philosophy and guiding principles of narrative therapy.

Find out more on their website.

Escaping Blame: Helping Couples Develop Accountability

If you work with couples, this course could be for you. Over six lessons, you’ll gain a deeper insight into how to distinguish blame from accountability to help couples escape blame narratives in their relationships and develop skills in accountability.

Find out more on their website.

Queer Counseling & Narrative Practice

In this four-lesson course, you’ll learn how to use strength-based narrative practices when working with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.

Find out more on their website.

 

PositivePsychology.com’s Resources

Interested in incorporating storytelling practices into your work?

Narratives are quite an abstract concept to grasp for many clients. To help with this, the exercises below show clients how the stories they tell themselves can be powerful. These exercises are from our Positive Psychology Toolkit, an online library of assessments, tools, and guides to assist the healthcare community.

  • The Narrative Self as a Shopping Cart
    What exactly do we mean by a “narrative self”? This five-minute mindfulness exercise aims to help clients understand and visualize what a “narrative self” is with a helpful shopping cart metaphor.

  • Rewriting the Narrative With Humor
    Embarrassment can be a problem if it fuels negative thoughts about ourselves or makes us feel stressed. This coping exercise challenges clients to recreate a narrative to help them put a fresh and funny spin on an embarrassing experience and build their ability to deal with embarrassment.

  • Using Storytelling to Elicit Automatic Judgments
    This super-quick mindfulness exercise can help clients gain insight into the judgments and assumptions they make when hearing different stories to become more aware of the automaticity of their thinking.

 

A Take-Home Message

Narrative therapy is not an all-or-nothing career move. Narrative practices can be useful in a range of helping professions to support clients to take the reins as architects of their own life story.

Thanks to a long list of excellent online courses, you can train in narrative therapy wherever you are. If you’re new to the narrative training world, it may be helpful to try a free online course initially to get a flavor of the approach.

For more advanced practitioners, there’s a wealth of training courses and resources out there to help you refine more complex skills of narrative therapy.

So, is narrative therapy for you? Either way, we hope this article has helped you weigh up your options. If you’d like to build skills in narrative practice, we wish you luck in your next chapter of training.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.

If you wish for more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 370 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

  • Dulwich Centre Publications. (n.d.). Commonly-asked questions about narrative approaches to therapy, community work, and psychosocial support. Retrieved August 3, 2021, from https://dulwichcentre.com.au/articles-about-narrative-therapy/common-questions-narrative-therapy/
  • Etchison, M., & Kleist, D. M. (2000). Review of narrative therapy: Research and utility. The Family Journal, 8(1), 61–66.
  • Wallis, J., Burns, J., & Capdevila, R. (2011). What is narrative therapy and what is it not? The usefulness of Q methodology to explore accounts of White and Epston’s (1990) approach to narrative therapy. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 18, 486–497.
  • White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative means to therapeutic ends. Norton.

About the Author

Dr. Helen Brown is a freelance writer with a Ph.D. in Psychology and MSc in Organizational Psychology. She has a varied background working in mental health and wellbeing research and is passionate about all things psychological. As well as writing about many psychology and health topics, Helen loves to scribble away at fictional stories and screenplays too. You can usually find her in the countryside just south of Bristol, UK.

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