Narrative Therapy for Addiction

Is Your Addiction Treatment Covered by Insurance? Check Your Benefits
Describe What You or Your Loved One Is Struggling With Right Now
24/7 Confidential Free Helpline Is Available. Speak With Someone Today


Addiction poses significant challenges, often leaving individuals feeling overwhelmed and trapped. Yet, within the realm of addiction treatment, narrative therapy shines as a beacon of hope. This therapeutic approach offers a unique angle, focusing on reshaping individuals’ self-narratives to aid in recovery.

At First Steps Recovery, we firmly believe in the transformative potential of narrative therapy for conquering addiction. Our method is grounded in the recognition that addiction isn’t merely a biological or behavioral problem; it’s also a deeply personal battle influenced by individual experiences and narratives. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we are here to support you every step of the way.

narrative therapy for addiction

What is Narrative Therapy?

Narrative therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the stories we tell about our lives. Developed by Michael White and David Epston in the 1980s, it suggests that people construct their identities and make sense of their experiences through the narratives they create. In this therapy, individuals are encouraged to explore their personal stories, understand how these narratives influence their beliefs and behaviors, and ultimately rewrite or reconstruct their stories in ways that empower them and promote positive change.

In narrative therapy for addiction, therapists often use techniques such as asking questions, reflecting on experiences, and co-creating alternative narratives with clients to help them reframe their stories and develop new meanings.

In general, narrative therapy seeks to assist people in recovering their agency, challenging prevailing narratives that could be repressive or constrictive, and discovering new meanings for their experiences that are consistent with their objectives and values.

What Are the Core Principles of Narrative Therapy?

The core principles of narrative therapy include:

Externalization of Problems

This principle involves separating individuals from their problems, allowing them to see that their difficulties are not inherent aspects of themselves but rather external influences that can be addressed and changed.

Narrative therapy encourages individuals to question dominant cultural and societal narratives that may oppress or marginalize them. By challenging these dominant stories, individuals can explore alternative perspectives and narratives that better reflect their experiences and identities.

Narrative therapy emphasizes the power of rewriting or reauthoring one’s life story. By reconceptualizing past events and experiences, individuals can reinterpret their narratives in ways that empower them and promote resilience. This process involves highlighting strengths, values, and alternative interpretations of events.

Narrative therapy focuses on identifying unique outcomes and exceptions to the dominant problem narrative. By exploring moments when the problem is less dominant or absent, individuals can uncover hidden resources, skills, and possibilities for change.

Narrative therapy is grounded in collaboration and respect for the individual’s expertise in their own life. Therapists serve as allies, co-constructing narratives with clients rather than imposing their interpretations or solutions. This collaborative approach honors the individual’s autonomy and agency in the therapeutic process.

Narrative therapy recognizes the influence of cultural, social, and historical contexts on individuals’ narratives. Therapists strive to understand and respect clients’ cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and values, acknowledging how these factors shape their experiences and identities.

Narrative therapy often employs metaphors, storytelling, letter writing, and other creative techniques to facilitate the exploration and expression of personal narratives. These methods can help individuals externalize problems, gain perspective, and create new meanings and possibilities for change.

These core principles form the foundation of narrative therapy, guiding therapists and clients in their collaborative journey toward understanding, healing, and transformation.

What Alternative Therapies Complement Narrative Therapy for Addiction?

Narrative therapy can be effectively complemented by several alternative therapies in the treatment of addiction. One alternative approach is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors, which can be integrated with narrative therapy to help individuals develop more constructive narratives about themselves and their experiences.

Another approach is solution-focused therapy, which concentrates on identifying and amplifying solutions rather than dwelling on problems. This approach can be combined with narrative therapy to help individuals create empowering narratives that highlight their strengths and abilities to overcome challenges.

Mindfulness-based therapy is another approach that can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment. This can aid in recognizing triggers for addictive behaviors and developing healthier coping mechanisms.

Narrative therapy, characterized by its gentle and supportive nature, is often integrated with other approaches for enhanced effectiveness. At First Steps Recovery, we offer narrative therapy alongside various models such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapy.

How Does Narrative Therapy Work?

Narrative therapy is a team effort where clients and therapists work together to tackle life’s challenges. It starts with creating a safe space for clients to share their stories. Then, the therapist helps clients see problems as separate from who they are, opening up the possibility for change.

Together, clients and therapists dig into the stories that shape how clients see themselves and their situations. Often, these stories can be negative or limiting. The therapist helps clients find new, more positive narratives to challenge those old stories.

Through conversation and reflection, clients gain fresh perspectives on their experiences. With the therapist’s guidance, they rewrite their stories to reflect their strengths and values. They might draw on past successes, imagine future possibilities, or rediscover hidden strengths.

As therapy progresses, clients and therapists keep exploring new narratives, celebrating victories, and addressing any remaining obstacles. Towards the end, they reflect on their journey together and make plans for staying on track after therapy ends.

Even after therapy, the therapist might check in to offer support and make sure clients keep living out their new, more empowering narratives.

What are the Benefits of Narrative Therapy?

benefits of narrative therapy for addiction

Narrative therapy offers several benefits for individuals seeking support with their mental health and personal development:

Putting Problems Outside Yourself

In narrative therapy, you learn to view your problems as distinct from your identity. Rather than seeing them as inherent flaws or failures within yourself, you start to see them as separate challenges that you can address and overcome.

By retelling your life experiences in a way that highlights your strengths, resilience, and accomplishments, you gradually develop a stronger sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy. This process allows you to recognize your own abilities and resources, empowering you to tackle difficulties with a renewed sense of determination and optimism.

In narrative therapy, you’re encouraged to critically examine the stories and beliefs that society or culture has imposed upon you. By questioning these dominant narratives, you can identify which ones resonate with your truth and values and which ones may be limiting or harmful to your well-being. This critical awareness enables rewriting narratives to align authentically with experiences and aspirations, offering new possibilities for personal growth.

Narrative therapy provides a supportive environment where you can freely express your thoughts, emotions, and experiences without fear of judgment or rejection. Through self-expression, you not only feel heard and understood but also gain clarity and insight into your feelings and motivations. This increased self-awareness can be incredibly empowering and therapeutic, helping you navigate life’s challenges more effectively.

Unlike traditional therapy approaches, where the therapist is seen as the expert, narrative therapy emphasizes a collaborative relationship between therapist and client. Your therapist respects your expertise in your own life and actively involves you in the therapeutic process. Together, you explore and co-create narratives reflecting your experiences, values, and goals, fostering ownership and agency over your story.

By reframing your narrative to focus on your strengths, achievements, and potential, you cultivate a sense of hope and possibility for the future. This shift in perspective allows you to see past difficulties as temporary setbacks rather than insurmountable obstacles. It inspires confidence in your ability to overcome challenges and create a more fulfilling life story.

Narrative therapy recognizes and celebrates the diversity of human experiences, identities, and cultural backgrounds. Your therapist recognizes what shapes your worldview, respects your individuality, and tailors therapy to meet your specific needs. This approach ensures therapy honors and validates your experiences, promoting belonging and acceptance through cultural sensitivity and inclusivity.

Narrative Therapy for Addiction at First Steps

At First Steps, narrative therapy is integrated into our comprehensive addiction treatment programs, offering individuals a holistic approach to recovery. Our experienced therapists work collaboratively with clients, utilizing narrative techniques to explore the complex dynamics of addiction and support positive change.

Through individual counseling sessions, group therapy, and experiential activities, clients engage in the process of re-authoring their stories and discovering new pathways to healing and growth. Our personalized approach ensures that each individual’s unique experiences and narratives are honored and addressed.

Moreover, narrative therapy is seamlessly integrated with other evidence-based modalities to provide a comprehensive treatment experience. By combining diverse therapeutic approaches, we strive to meet the complex needs of individuals struggling with addiction and support them on their journey toward recovery. Contact us today to learn more about this program!

Meet Our Team
Meet Our Team

From our certified therapists and nurses to our emotional support animal "Cooper", our entire team is dedicated to the health and success of our clients throughout our program and beyond.

Help Is Available. Speak With Someone Today.

Our admission team is available to help 24/7.
Have questions about our evidence-based therapies? Let’s talk.


Variety of Evidence-Based Therapies We Offer

We offer a variety of holistic therapies to our clients, both experiential and evidence-based. These therapies help our clients to get in touch with their minds and bodies while undergoing treatment, promoting a sense of peace and wellness.
Individual & Group Therapy

During individual and group therapy sessions, clients will interact with licensed and trained counselors to work through underlying issues that may be contributing to their drug or alcohol addiction.

Learn More
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT) has been clinically proven to help clients with a wide range of problems, including substance abuse.

Learn More
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (or DBT) is another common form of talk therapy that is found in many substance abuse treatment programs. 

Learn More
Trauma Informed Therapy

During trauma-informed therapy sessions, clients are able to talk with a specialist who accounts for their past trauma and the way it may have affected their thinking, behavior, and ability to interact with treatment.

Learn More

Brainspotting is a type of alternative therapy that utilizes spots in a person's field of vision in order to help them process trauma.

Learn More
Neuro Feedback

Neuro Feedback is a type of noninvasive therapy that helps clients to alter the way their brain responds to certain types of stimuli.

Learn More
Family Counseling

Family counseling is one of the best ways to reconnect with family members who are affected by addiction and mend the relationship between a client and their family. 

Learn More

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic treatment designed to help clients process trauma.

Learn More


Offering Innovation & Excellence in Addiction Treatment, Fresno County

Discover how we approach addiction treatment and detox at First Steps Recovery.

Medical Detox

Our detoxification program features 24-hour monitoring and professional guidance from licensed detox technicians.
Learn More

Residential Treatment Care (RTC)

A highly individualized treatment experience designed for lasting sobriety using evidence-based and holistic treatment options.
Learn More

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

Our PHP allows you to continue your addiction treatment program without residing at the inpatient facility.
Learn More

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Our IOP offers individuals the ability to receive the high-quality, personalized level care of our rehab, but the flexibility to continue their daily lives.
Learn More


Individuals in the alumni program are invited to stay connected for meetings, events, and resources that are intended specifically for First Steps graduates.
Learn More


First Choice for Drug & Alcohol Detox in Fresno County

Learn why people choose to start their recovery at First Steps Recovery in Clovis, Fresno County.


My experience with First Steps and their entire team has not only helped me to gain sobriety but maintain it now for knots 18 months. The 24 or so days I spent there was the best thing that happened. My kids have their mom, the parents have their daughter but most importantly I have myself back!!

Dayatra L.

Amazing Experience

Amazing people. Super supportive and always there when you need them. My counselor, Amanda, makes it fun but also takes you to uncomfortable places in the best way. I recommend First Steps to anyone struggling with addiction.

Melissa B.

Above and Beyond

I attended First Steps outpatient program and was very happy with the help I received. I felt the staff genuinely cared about the health and well being of the people there. They went above and beyond to help me meet my goals and keep them.

Bruce G.

Have questions about how our alumni program works? Let's talk.


Are You Covered for Addiction Treatment?

First Steps Recovery is an in-network provider with most insurances! Regardless of where you live, our skilled and compassionate drug treatment counselors in Fresno can help you and your family get the help you need to get on the road to recovery.
Skip to content