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The aim of this paper will be to logically utilize a narrative therapy approach qualitatively by a professional counsellor to help a client, Esther who is faced with an economic turmoil as a result of being laid off from her job to cope up with the situation in a more effective manner.
Narrative therapy is an approach developed by White Michael and Epston David (Epston, 2016) while working in New Zealand. The two scholars believed that individuals like Esther could be helped to externalize problems and issues affecting them rather than internalizing them and this could be done through separating individuals from the problem at hand. The goal of narrative therapy involves understanding and using the individuals strengths to modify their ineffective narratives for instance Esther’s. The counsellor using this therapy relies on the affected person’s sense of purpose and skills to help guide them sail through the difficult situations swiftly, (Epston, 2016).
The prevailing emotions, perceptions, behaviours and feelings routinely or mistakenly committed by an individual largely depend on their state of the mind and their prior experience. People will often require assistance to enable them remain wholistically healthy, productive and happy especially when they encounter difficult times. Michael and White, (Ingamells, 2016) gives an example of helping an individual faced with problems in their study; if someone hides from law enforcement officers, they should be encouraged to perceive the committed act as a mistake and not a felony. Hockley in 2007 forwarded that narrative therapy focuses on values, skills and knowledge possessed by individuals in problems that can be exploited to assist them tackle the menace at hand. In this paper, the essay will therefore involve a session between Esther and a professional counselor.
Understanding Esther from a narrative therapy perspective
White and Epston believed that if an ineffective narrative that is held by an individual is deconstructed, those individuals can construct effective and non-oppressive stories replacing the negative ones, (Nichols, 2010). Esther can be understood from this perspective whereby helping her understand all the negativity in her life and the effect they pose to her wellbeing, she will be better placed to cope up effectively with these predicaments emanating from retrenchment.
As Michael theorized in his early work that experts in the society came up with narratives which became oppressive to people who did not meet this set standards for instance being employed, (Epston, 2016); Esther can be understood from this perspective and be advised that it is not to go everybody’s way, she can as well explore her potential and come up with something productive that will turn around her table and achieve greater successes.
In this section, I will introduce it by quoting strong words by the scholar (Michael White) behind the invention of the narrative therapy, “The person is not the problem,’ the problem is the problem” (Denborough, 2014). Economic turmoil and changes in Esther’s work patterns have led to life transitions and traumas in her life and this requires the counselor’s to be prepared to address the clients job concerns(Bxter-Magolda, 2008), Lara and Kindsvatter in 2010 said that unemployment brings more mental stressors to the affected individuals life. The counselling session will be between Esther who is experiencing a serious economic turmoil and a professional counsellor, through an avalange of questions, I will draw out the pieces of Esther’s experience at work and assure her of her competence and capability. In addition I will aim to help my client in identifying valuable desires, assets and strengths and probe her to find out the influence of other people in her career life. A number of questions will be asked to find out all the useful and beneficial skills, capabilities, assets, strengths, values, solutions and desires possessed by Esther that can be exploited to form a base for a successful intervention.
I will ensure the client sees the her problem from a varied angle and this will allow her to choose which side of the problem need to be tamed, minimized or done away with, externalization allowing Esther to be the author and expert of her life whereby the counsellors empowers her to be the leading solution finder will make Esther understand and cope very easily with the problem at hand, (Epston, 2016).
My client Esther reports that she has noticed that she is thinking negatively of herself and her situation, this in itself shows her having low self-esteem, I will help my client to recognize the low self-esteem and also the accompanying effects, Counselling and Mental health Center at the University of Texas documented in their study that individual with low self-esteem have a tendency to exhibit low opinions about self, they may take the prevailing situation as a death sentence and then turn out to be judgemental about self for instance they may feel inferior and helpless. Goff (2010) added that an individual is likely to cope up with low self-esteem using one of the below patterns: imposter syndrome where an individual utilizes their successes to mask their life insecurities, rebellion that more often than not presents as anger, helplessness and blame, victimhood is another way of coping up with situations, here the person are convinced that they are helpless when faced with problems. These individuals like Esther requires help of others to sail through the situation via guidance, (Goff, 2010).
In the sessions I will help my client Esther to understand the effects of low self-esteem and criticism as described by the University of Texas at Austin Counseling and Mental Health Center in 2017: the study revealed that series of self-criticism and blame like what Esther is doing may deter someone from doing what he/she initially enjoyed doing as they now fear the judgemental society about their current state. As it is depicted in our case study, Esther’s anger, fear and sadness has kept her off from enjoying her hobbies and this is in agreement with Goff’s finding where in his study self-doubt greatly interfered with a person’s productive life and sap away their joy in life, (Goff, 2010).
The narrative therapy between Esther and the counsellor will majorly be in a dialogue form involving questions and answer sessions. Esther is struggling with an avalange of issues, the counsellors may say,” I see this as an opportunity to reflect on your career, what name can you use to refer to your current situation? “Posing a question like this helps Esther to focus her drive on overpowering the problem and not to be overwhelmed with it. I will encourage Esther to participate in a conversation by asking what to talk about and, on a continuing foundation, affirms if she has interest in the topic to address the problem. I will lead the client telling additional, more optimistic stories from her life with an intention of helping her discover intrinsic personality and skills useful in addressing the problem. The goal here is to help her to realize a positive and productive means to approach life and future while forgetting problems.
During the session, the events that that have occurred in Esther’s life will be viewed as stories, some of which appears significant while others are considered fateful. Significant stories originate from negative happenings, thereby shaping her identity, (Epston, 2016). I will not act as an expert, but rather helps the Esther realize the essence of being experts regarding his own life, and therefore, can uncover the, values, dreams, skills and goals that define who she really is, separate from the problems. After getting to know that she is the expert in her life, Esther will understand that she has all the answers to her problems, this will stimulate her to think more and re-order her life again. I may use another narrative therapy technique that was recommended by Scharf in2004; it is called “sparkling events “whereby I will ask Esther to describe to me how she and her family managed to curb a similar scenario or problem previously and emerged victorious for instance, “Can you think of any instance in your life where you were greatly depressed, anxious or low, was is it like this, how did you solve it?” By focusing on the outcome of previous situation, Esther will understand that she can withstand it again as she has all it takes to succeed as it has been done before.
As part of intervention, I will advise my client to stop worrying about what others will think of her, she should forget about other people’s expected opinion and focus on the task at hand, job searching, Esther should also stop making goals out of pressure from other people’s opinion, this will reduce her anxiety and ultimately her mental health will improve. I would recommend Esther to adopt the three steps as recommended by Gerner and the CMHC to improving her self-esteem, (Goff, 2010 & Counselling and mental Health Centre, 2017) which are vital to the way she will perceive her new situation in life and how she will respond to it. First, I will advise her to rebut her inner critic, instead of focusing on the negatives like “I was fired by uncaring employer because of my incapability” she should acknowledge her strength for instance, “wow, I realize I have all it takes for any job in my area of specialization or I am proud of my achievements and I believe I will get a job”
The second step will require Esther being compassionate to self whereby if her close friend was the one in the same situation, Esther could be ready to offer extra support and care, encourage and let Esther know that she deserve the same treatment, Esther should recognize that she is a human being and be mindful of her emotions whereby even if she is upset about her unemployment, allow self to experience and perceive them in a more balanced way and not to judge her employer as the reason for her unemployment. Esther should recognize that emotions will come and pass with time. The last step as recommended by the duo-researcher is that Esther should seek help from her friends and confidants, let her inform them about her job searching mission and let them help her accomplish it as a shared responsibility. Studies reveal that individual having low self-esteem and self-criticism rarely ask for help but they are the one who deserve it most (Neff, 2011), let Esther should therefore seek assistance from friends, relatives, teachers or other helpers. I will also share stories of individuals who had problem similar and more worse than Esther’s but managed to cope with these issues, this will open her mind to know that problems are there in life but importantly to remember is that they exit for a season and she can start over turning around tables and she will unravel her potentials and hidden fortune.
Narrative therapy counseling uses the stories people bring about themselves and their lives, to re-shape new perspectives, experiences and their future. Narrative therapy seeks to be a polite, non-blaming move toward counseling and which consider people as the experts in their lives (Ingamells, 2016) therefore this will help Esther to lead the solution finding process and she will feel part of the process. It looks at problems as disconnected from people and assumes people like Esther have a lot of skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that assists them to lessen the influence of problems in their lives, (Bradley, 2011 &Epston, 2016).
One of the disadvantage while working with narrative therapy is it does not subscribe to the traditional interpretation of how individual behave for instance, people like Esther are viewed as having a chain of stories and not really problems, (Ingamells, 2016). In other psychotherapeutic approach counsellors knows what is right and wrong but in our case therapist avoids this because categorizing clients goes against its principles (Nicholas, 2010). Counsellors do not listen to people’s view as a problem but rather as stories (Ridgway, 2005).Therefore Esther may be left with a lot of concerns as the therapy believes that she knows the direction that her life need to take and has solutions to her concerns; she is the author of her life. Another disadvantage is that this method is relativistic whereby the people problems and predicaments are thought to emanate from their environment, this assertion is false not also problems comes from environment, some depend on the decision taken by an individual.
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