Narrative therapy in the South African context : a case study

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Narrative Therapy approach has been developed in Australia, and is therefore refreshingly southern hemispheric in contrast to most psychological theories which have originated in northern hemisphere countries. However, its application has mostly been in first-world, white, middle- class, English-speaking contexts. Questions therefore arise as to the appropriateness and applicability of this approach with people from working-class, politically disempowered, and multi-language contexts. The context for this study is the broader African culture which has traditionally privileged the oral tradition in the sense of the shared telling of stories. A narrative or story approach to therapy recognises the client's story as a story and privileges the telling of it. The respect for the other and their story, implicit in the narrative approach, greatly facilitates cross-cultural exchange. This research illuminates the process and appropriateness of applying Narrative Therapy in order to facilitate the client's preferred, alternative story of her life and her relationships in a South African setting of racial, cultural and economic refraction and ,diversity. Light is shed on the cross-cultural sensitivity of the narrative approach and on restraints inherent in the author-therapist's and the client's contexts and in the site of study, namely a South African university. The story of co-authoring a client's life and relationships is presented via a qualitative, exploratory design and single case study methodology. Data was collected from the author- therapist's session notes and transcripts of audio tape recordings. Data processing analysis and interpretation were informed by the characteristics and concepts of Narrative Therapy theory. Summarizing statements and recommendations suggest modifications to and extensions of the Narrative Therapy approach in the specified context. These include suggestions for cross-cultural training in the context of peer-group supervision, generation of a thesaurus of modified questions by practitioners for use in multi-language settings, and further research with regard to application of the narrative approach to groups and families in settings which are similar to that of this study. Exchange across the spectrum of human sciences and social services is recommended to enlighten and enliven the narrative conversation in South Africa in order to move forward with regard to empowering and just practices.

Bibliography: leaves 67-69.