Video | 01:52:00

Narrative Family Therapy

by Stephen Madigan
Ollie is a 12 year-old African-American boy who has been court-ordered to therapy after hitting his classmate with his belt. Watch Stephen Madigan, expert Narrative therapist, as he compassionately engages Ollie and his mother in a fascinating inquiry into their experience of racism, discovering there’s much more to this incident than meets the eye.

Part of the 10-video series: Family Therapy with the Experts

Narrative Family Therapy
Beginning with the premise that "the problem is the problem, the person is not the problem," Madigan guides the viewer on an intriguing journey through the foundational narrative therapy techniques such as externalization and re-authoring conversations. By asking a series of purposeful questions intended to help Ollie and his mother “tell their story,” Madigan masterfully shows how to uncover the client’s stance on the problem and how to develop an alternative plot that supports a client’s preferred identity.

With persistence and openness, Madigan validates this family’s experience of racism and helps Ollie regain his “good boy reputation.” This is an exceptional opportunity to engage with the compelling principles of Narrative Therapy and learn how to put these transformational ideas into practice.

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In an excellent illustration of a narrative interview, Stephen Madigan cautiously questions an African American mother and her son, making visible the effects of racism. Madigan's narrative map of understanding allows him to be curious and respectful, following the young boy's intention to escape what could perhaps become a "troubled-boy reputation" and affirming his preference to have a "good-boy reputation." This is a video I consistently use in teaching as a demonstration of narrative therapy, of deconstructing oppressive cultural discourses, with questions that closely follow the client.
-- Victoria Dickerson, PhD, author of Who Cares What You're Supposed to Do? - Breaking the Rules to Get What You Want in Love, Life, and Work and co-author of If Problems Talked: Narrative Therapy in Action.
In Depth
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Madigan shares a refreshing approach to therapy that genuinely honors the individual’s experience. A great tool for learning the theory and techniques of Narrative Therapy, this video is also an exceptional example of how to truly listen to your clients. At the end of this family therapy session, the mother says to Madigan, “I didn’t know we would get to tell the story but it is a true story.” This session reminds us how healing it can be for people to have a space to tell their stories to a concerned and interested listener, and Madigan teaches us how to create that space.

By watching this video, you will:
• Learn how to conduct a therapeutic interview using Narrative Therapy techniques such as deconstruction, re-authoring, and identifying communities of concern.
• Understand the significance of privileging the client’s understanding of the problem and how to do this in an effective way.
• Develop skills for engaging clients in conversations about how socio-political issues such as racism play a role in the problems they are currently facing.
Length of video: 01:52:00
Number of Discs: 1
English subtitles available on: Stream, DVD
This DVD plays in All Regions
Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-265-4
Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-266-2
Stephen MadiganStephen Madigan, MSW, also holds an MSc and PhD in couple and family therapy. In 1992, he opened the Vancouver School for Narrative Therapy through Yaletown Family Therapy in Vancouver, Canada, as the first narrative therapy training site in the Northern Hemisphere. He hosts the yearly Therapeutic Conversations Conference, publishes widely, and teaches narrative training workshops worldwide.

The American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) recently honored Dr. Madigan with their Distinguished Award for Innovative Practice in Family Therapy Theory and Practice. The American Psychological Association (APA) has just released a set of six live DVD sessions of his work entitled Narrative Therapy Through Time, and has also published his new book, Narrative Therapy: Theory and Practice.

Dr. Madigan is a "retired" member of Canada's National Ultimate Frisbee Team and the proud father of 15-year-old twin daughters, Hannah and Tessa.

To contact Stephen Madigan, visit For information about workshop training and scheduling and/or his yearly therapeutic conversations conference, visit

See all Stephen Madigan videos.
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CE credits: 5
Learning objectives:

  • Learn how to conduct a therapeutic interview using Narrative Therapy techniques such as deconstruction, re-authoring, and identifying communities of concern.
  • Understand the significance of privileging the client’s understanding of the problem and how to do this in an effective way.
  • Develop skills for engaging clients in conversations about how socio-political issues such as racism play a role in the problems they are currently facing.