How Can Rewriting Your Narrative Help You Gain Closure?

Posted by Bijal Shah on


Sometimes it's only in hindsight that we get a sense of what our story is - a sense of closure. Through reflection, through journaling and re-writing our narrative. This is why reflection and writing our story is so important - it brings closure and even hope as we are able to move forward again. If you are in the middle of a difficult story right now, know that this too will pass and soon you will be able to make sense of it all. 

In the book Discourse, Dialogue and Diversity in Biographical Research: An Ecology of Life and LearningAlan Bainbridge and others explain that the telling of one's life story can make visible something greater by allowing us to transcend time, reconnecting with both the past and the future, and help us make sense of who we are and what we draw meaning from.

Often termed narrative therapy, this technique find its origins in New Zealand - a technique developed by therapists Michael White and David Epston - it focuses on re-creating and embracing your own story by assigning meaning to experiences and interactions. The goal is to create a more empowering relationship with the self and others, through shifting and welcoming different perspectives.

And when it comes to closure, we can only understand what has happened to us in hindsight by reflecting back and drawing meaning and understanding to the experience we have had and how we plan to move forward, honouring it for what it was and not belittling ourselves or blaming ourselves for the final outcome. 

Main Technique

1. Putting Together Your Narrative

Start by putting your story together - this empowers you to find your voice, honour your experience, and pull together an understanding of the things in your life that have had a key impact on you and the meaning you have assigned or derived from them.

2. Externalisation

This is about separating the problem from the person and by creating this distance, it makes it easier to detach and look at the issue from a new perspective rather than letting it define you.

3. Deconstruction

Therapists and counsellors often break down the story into smaller parts, in order to get a better understanding and clarity over the problem and issues as opposed to overarching or sweeping statements that confuse the issue.

4. Alternative stories or outcomes

The therapist encourages the client to imagine different stories, versions or outcomes in order to help the client become unstuck from their present story, which can overwhelm them or prevent them from moving forward.

What are the benefits of Narrative Therapy?

The identification of alternative stories and outcomes, the ability to see different perspectives and to take stock of one's life, perhaps even challenge outdated views and open up ourselves to new ways of looking at old problems to pull together a more fulfilling, accurate and empowering story is one of the key benefits of narrative therapy in helping build a person's sense of self and self-esteem.

What can be treated with Narrative Therapy?

Like other talking therapies, most mild-to-moderate mental health issues can be treated with narrative therapy including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, grief, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You might like our other Q&A posts in our Ask the Bibliotherapist Blog:

If you enjoyed reading this you might find Book Therapy’s online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course helpful. If you'd like to find out more about me, do check out my profile here or drop me an email at 

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