Narrative practices can support mental health. Or so this paper argues. It offers a way of defending at least some narrative-based therapies from three crippling challenges. Its action unfolds as follows: Section 1 considers, in detail, a particular philosophical analysis of the aims of narrative therapy and how it is assumed to work. It gives close attention to McConnell & Snoek’s (2018) account of how narrative interventions might positively influence the prospects of recovery from addiction. Section 2 details three sceptical challenges that threaten to cast doubt on the acceptability of the aims and methods of narrative therapy, as depicted by McConnell & Snoek (2018) as well as, potentially, casting doubt on the acceptability of other, similar narrative-based approaches to mental health. Finally, Section 3 makes an effort to show that it is possible to address these trio of challenges by recasting certain assumptions about the core aims and methods of narrative therapy. It is proposed that by focusing on the ‘fictive’ rather than the ‘factual’ character of its narrative practices, it is possible to rethink how narrative therapy might work in practice in such a way that would protect it from the sceptical challenges outlined in Section 2. To achieve this outcome, it is proposed that we adjust the way we understand that aims and methods of narrative therapy, and potentially other narrative-based approaches to mental health. In the end, it is concluded that there is a way to see off the three sceptical challenges identified in this chapter and thus improve the philosophical credibility of narrative-based approaches in mental health, opening the path for their wider uptake.
Daniel D. Hutto is Senior Professor of Philosophical Psychology and Head of the School of Liberal Arts at the University of Wollongong. He served on the Australian Research Council College of Experts, chairing its Humanities and Creative Arts panel. Heo is the author of award-winning, highly cited research, with 7 books (3 with MIT Press) and over 120 research papers in peer-reviewed journals and books chapters to his name. He is co-author of the award-winning Radicalizing Enactivism (MIT, 2013) and its sequel, Evolving Enactivism (MIT, 2017). His other recent books, include: Folk Psychological Narratives (MIT, 2008) and Wittgenstein and the End of Philosophy (Palgrave, 2006). He is editor of Narrative and Understanding Persons (CUP, 2007) and Narrative and Folk Psychology (Imprint Academic, 2009). A special yearbook, Radical Enactivism, focusing on his philosophy of intentionality, phenomenology and narrative, was published in 2006. He is regularly invited to speak internationally, not only at philosophy conferences but at expert meetings of anthropologists, clinicians, educationalists, narratologists, neuroscientists and psychologists.
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