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Therapy entails working with a therapist in developing positive thinking and coping skills. The definition of therapy depends on the therapist and the type of therapy used. Therapy can be conducted in a variety of modalities, such as mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, or a combination of several modalities. Narrative therapy provides a unique way of counseling that separates people from their problems. This allows clients to look at their problems from an objective point of view.
Narrative therapy can be applied in sports psychology by instilling skills, values, and knowledge so that athletes give their best. It uses a social approach to therapeutic conversations by seeking to challenge discourses that potentially shape people’s lives in ways that are destructive. This therapy is helpful in sports so that the athletes become motivated and achieve the goals set by coaches. So, what makes narrative therapy so important? This article highlights what narrate therapy is, how to use it in sports psychology, and its benefits.
What Is Narrative Therapy?
Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that mainly aims at separating an individual from a problem, which allows them to externalize their issues instead of internalizing them. It capitalizes on the person’s own skills and sense of purpose to guide them through times of difficulty. David Epston and Michael White developed narrative therapy in the 1980s. The two therapists believed that once you separate a person from his or her destructive or problematic behavior, you can achieve positive treatment outcomes.
Epston and White grounded this therapeutic method on three main ideas. First, narrative therapy should be respectful. It is mandatory that it respects the agency and dignity of each client and requires each client to be treated as a person who is not defective, deficient, or “not enough” in any way. Therefore, people engaging in narrative therapy are seen as brave and recognize the fact that they have issues they would like to address in their lives.
Second, this form of therapy is non-blaming. Clients should never be blamed for their issues, and the therapists encourage them not to blame anyone for their problems. This is because problems are common in everyone’s life due to variant factors, and there is no need of assigning blame to anything or anyone. This form of therapy is essential since it separates people from their problems, viewing them as a whole and functional members of the society who engage in behavior or thought patterns they would like to change.
Third, narrative therapy is based on the viewpoint that the client is the expert. The therapist doesn’t occupy a higher academic or social space than that of the clients. As such, the relationship between clients and therapists is found on the basis that the client is the expert of his or her life. This is because only the client is aware of his or her life intimately. It is only the client who has the knowledge and skills necessary for changing their behavior and addressing their problems.
The therapy is based on the standpoint that “the problem is the problem, but the person is not the problem,” as asserted by Epston and White. This means that making a distinction between a person with issues and a problematic individual is vital in this form of therapy. Epston and White articulated that when we subscribe to adverse self-identity, we could have negative impacts on our individual’s quality of life and functionality.
The main principles of narrative therapy include:
How Do You Use Narrative Therapy in Sports Psychology?
Since narrative therapy makes use of stories, existentialism, externalization, unique outcomes and deconstruction techniques, the therapists will mostly use words or stories. The impressions that people hold of athletes change in response to media reports, and the phrasing/words used can change the way athletes view themselves, which may affect their performance. In essence, words can affect athletes to a great extent. Even for non-elite sports levels, the statement that athletes hear about teammates, their clubs, and themselves can guide their thinking and actions, as does their self-perception.
In sports psychology, therapists pay close attention to the language athletes use when describing themselves, as it is reflective of what is important for the person. What they choose to tell, their ambitions, and what they emphasize about themselves all construct an identity.
Therefore, when the therapists assesses the language, the athlete uses helps create a distance between the individual and their specific problem so that they can become experts in understanding and handling it. Besides, this also allows the implementation of solutions that are appropriate to the personal history and cultural context that needs to be investigated.
Narrative therapy allows sports psychologists to help athletes in their specific issues. For instance, if the athlete comes to the psychologist with the issue of “burn out,” this is typically centered to that athlete. He or she may be exhausted or have lost focus on their sport.
This issue, which the athlete already understands, can only be fixed within the athlete. If the athlete uses terms like “extreme external pressure” to describe their problem, it means that issues concerning training plans and other influences are also considered. The problem may prevent the athlete from seeing the “burn out” as a personal deficit, which could be detrimental to the performance of the athlete.
When narrative therapy is used, terms that may imply that the athlete is weak are deconstructed. The problem could be correlated with high demands of competition, which could cause an overemphasis of the sport to their identity. This can restrict other identities, such as family identity, and could potentially lead to unsurprising “burn out” feelings as far as the sport is concerned.Narrative therapy deconstructs negative stories into preferred ones, and negative terms associated with the athlete are replaced. For instance, in female sports, the meaning of attractive bodies can be changed to include athletic characteristics, such as “fast,” “fit” and “strong.” This helps promote a positive body image in female athletes.
What Are the Benefits of Using Narrative Therapy in Sports Psychology?
One of the most apparent benefits of narrative therapy is increasing the self-awareness of the athlete. Externalization allows the athlete to separate himself or herself from the issues at hand. This technique eases the burden of reaching viable solutions and allows the athlete to assess themselves better. Through the use of narration therapy, athletes get to analyze their habits, weaknesses, strengths, habits and patterns, and they are able to determine whether they are for better or for worse. If they are negative, a therapist helps change them into positive ones through the use of stories, which works to improve the performance of the athlete.
Essentially, this form of therapy induces self-awareness, which, when positively harnessed, improves the quality of life and morale of athletes. By bringing out a positive image or identity of athletes, it promotes how they view themselves and promote better performance of not just the athlete alone, but the entire team. They believe in themselves more.
Additionally, narrative therapy in sports psychology increases the personal responsibility of the athlete by bettering their habits, actions and decisions, as these help build a positive atmosphere among team members. The team becomes more cohesive, and everyone has a sense of responsibility in propelling the team to success.
Narrative therapy helps separate an individual from a specific problem, which allows them to externalize their issues instead of internalizing them by using the person’s own skills and sense of purpose. It respects the agency and dignity of each client and requires each client to be treated as a person who is not defective. Besides, clients aren’t blamed for their issues.
This form of therapy is based on the viewpoint that the client is the expert. It is based on principles like narratives are easily understood, which allows us to maintain and organize our reality. Reality depends on the language used, and there is no “objective reality” or absolute truth. Besides, reality is constructed via social means.
In sports psychology, therapists pay close attention to the language athletes use when describing themselves. Therapists use this to create a distance between the individual and their specific problem so that they can become experts in understanding and handling it. Narrative therapy is beneficial since it increases self-awareness and personal responsibility among athletes. The team becomes more cohesive, and everyone has a sense of responsibility in propelling the team to success. We hope that this article has adequately addressed what narrative therapy is, its benefits, and how to use it in sports psychology.