Family Therapy: The Postmodern Approaches

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1381
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: Master


Family therapy initiates change and nurtures the development of intimate bonds between family members. Family therapists are more interested in solving a problem rather than identifying the cause. Postmodern approaches include narrative and solution-focused therapies and are grounded on the idea that reality is relative and is influenced by everything around us. The approaches address conflicts by improving the communication and interaction of family members. Different social groups from various cultures have applied the two post-modern techniques to solve family problems. While the narrative approach is person-centered, solution-focused therapy is more inclined to finding solutions rather than an in-depth exploration of personality problems.

Narrative Approaches to Family Therapy

Narrative therapy is an approach that separates an individual from their problem. The technique was developed by Michael White and David Epston and is based on the idea that individuals have different stories. The therapists create a way of interviewing their clients and invite them to view their issues differently from their lives (Suddeath et al., 2017). It gives people an opportunity to rely on their skills and be their person to minimize problems in their lives. The approach recognizes that individuals have expertise that can change their lives. It helps people separate their problems and externalize sensitive subjects, and productively address issues. Throughout one’s life, personal experiences are stories that shape their identity. In the narrative therapy approach, individuals use the power of stories to rediscover their life purpose. The practitioner of the therapy believes that storytelling is a way of action towards change.

The Main Concepts and Tenets of Narrative Therapy

The therapy approach’s main idea is rooted in the concept that human lives are narratives, and people’s stories define reality. The theme of this therapy is that reality is socially constructed, meaning it is impacted by communication and interaction with others. It also believes that truth can be differently interpreted by people who speak different languages as individuals communicate. The concept of narrative therapy is that people use their stories to identify who they are and navigate their lives.

Narrative therapy aims not only to transform the person but instead changes the effect of the problem. The main objective of the process is to help develop and nurture the narrator in their journey. Its goal is to separate the individual from the issue, making it possible to see how the problem affects a person. The approach helps people to view their challenges from different perspectives (Carr, 2019). This will influence how they view themselves and their personal stories. The therapy is used by many people, including couples and families. It helps them externalize their problems and address how the situation has challenged the bond of their relationship.

The Assessment Approaches of Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy uses three assessment techniques: externalizing the problem, identifying unique outcomes, and identifying alternative narratives. This allows the client to express their issues through their lens, thus decreasing misunderstanding (Carr, 2019). The therapist analyses the story told by the client to assess language and communication.

The Strengths and Limitations of Narrative Therapy

Some of the most common strengths of narrative therapy are self-awareness and personal responsibility. Externalizing the problems lessens the burden of reaching possible solutions and allows the client to assess themselves critically. Narrative therapy allows family members to give their own stories, which have valuable lessons and untapped potential skills. It focuses on the client’s skills and strengths instead of past failures and drawbacks (Suddeath et al., 2017). As issues are externalized, this gives a chance for them to look at problems from an objective perspective, thus giving rise to a new interpretation of their stories. Externalizing problems helps clients understand the impact that challenges have on their lives and pushes them towards the self-actualization goal (Carr, 2019). Also, in narrative therapy, the client can construct a storyline that gives them a positive identity. One potential limitation of narrative therapy is that family members can sometimes feel uncomfortable driving the therapy sessions. Another drawback of narrative therapy is that it can be difficult for families who are not comfortable with the sessions. Also, the process is time-consuming and needs commitment from family members.

Solution-Focused Family Therapy

The technique emphasizes empowering individuals to use their abilities to solve their problems. The approach was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg to give realistic solutions for individuals as soon as possible. The method is considered time-limited and is often referred to as a brief therapy approach. Unlike other therapies, the strategy focuses on problem-solving rather than problem analysis (Franklin et al., 2017). It does not dwell on every detail of the problems and does not require a deep dive into the individual’s past.

It places focus on the individual’s present and future circumstances rather than past experiences. In this therapy, the therapist encourages their clients to develop their vision for their future (Choi, 2020). It is committed to finding workable solutions for clients faster, thus minimizing the time spent in therapy. The therapists refrain from confronting their clients and making interpretations. They instead identify the client’s goals and develop an effective way to accomplish them by exploring the current resources and future hopes.

The Main Concepts and Tenets of Solution -Focused Therapy

The model assumes that change is inevitable and constant, and the clients must want change. Also, the building block is that the therapy is short-term and focuses only on what is changeable and possible (Franklin et al., 2017). The therapy utilizes the concept that conversation is directed towards achieving the envisioned solutions of the clients. Another foundation of the approach is goal setting, as it helps identify and clarify goals. Additionally, the process is founded on the idea that solutions to one’s problems lie within the problem’s expectations. The therapy focuses on the strengths of the individual rather than dwelling on their limitations. It helps individuals tackle problems using the solution-building concept that fosters change and allows them to set realistic goals.

Assessment Approach of Solution- Focused Approach

The assessment is done through direct observation of the individual’s responses to constructed questions. The counselors use a set of tailored questions to encourage people to picture a solution. Coping questions help demonstrate the resilience to challenges in people’s lives (Choi, 2020). The skillful questions allow people to focus on solutions and utilize resources. With the use of miracle questions, individuals can envision a future without problems in it. Therapists also use scaling questions to assess the difficulty of present circumstances (Bolton et al., 2017). Scaling questions are helpful in tracking the progress of the client in their current situation.

The Strengths and Limitations of Solution Focused Approach

Unlike narrative therapy, the approach concentrates on finding solutions much quicker and exploring future hopes. The method is simple as the emphasis is on finding a solution as quickly as possible. Since the therapy approach is short-term, it is cheap and less time-consuming than other forms of therapy. The technique also helps identify where the client does well and encourages them to use their strong points to reach their goals. Furthermore, the method is future-oriented, thus motivates the clients and gives them the optimism needed to move forward (Franklin et al., 2017). The methodology can treat people of all ages, including family dysfunction, child abuse, and behavioral problems. However, it does not incorporate families with more severe issues that need more time because it is short-term. Also, because it has less focus on the past, this gives less room for understanding why something happened in the past and why it still affects the client.


In conclusion, unlike modernist approaches, postmodern therapy approaches encourage alternative narratives. Both solution-focused and narrative therapies are extensively used to address psychological problems in families. Unlike traditional therapies, these postmodern approaches acknowledge the uniqueness of the patient and handle their situations at individual levels. In a nutshell, narrative therapy separates the client from their challenges, allowing them to address their issues more critically. The therapy permits family members and individuals to examine the impacts of their problems as they employ their skills to bring about change. For solution-focused therapies, the goal is to find a solution as quickly as possible. Contrary to narrative therapies, solution-focused therapies are goal-oriented and do not emphasize the perception and meaning given to the problem.


Bolton, K. W., Hall, J. C., Blundo, R., & Lehmann, P. (2017). The role of resilience and resilience theory in solution-focused practice. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 36(3), 1-15. Web.

Carr, A. (2019). Family therapy and systemic interventions for child-focused problems: The current evidence base. Journal of Family Therapy, 41(2), 153-213. Web.

Choi, J. J. (2020). The role of the solution-focused brief therapist in client-led problem talks. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 1-17. Web.

Franklin, C., Zhang, A., Froerer, A., & Johnson, S. (2017). Solution-focused brief therapy: A systematic review and meta summary of process research. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43(1), 16-30. Web.

Suddeath, E. G., Kerwin, A. K., & Dugger, S. M. (2017). Narrative family therapy: Practical techniques for more effective work with couples and families. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 39(2), 116-131. Web.