Much research on narrative therapy and community work is conducted by postgraduate students. This collection includes some recent doctoral and research master’s theses linking narrative practice and research. If you have a thesis to add, please let us know!

Recent theses and dissertations

Lau, C. Y. (2023). Effectiveness of narrative therapy on students with dyslexia in Hong Kong [Doctoral thesis, Hong Kong Baptist University].


The present investigation examines the effectiveness of narrative group therapy among primary students with dyslexia in Hong Kong, as these students often suffer a series of emotional, behavioral, and social problems derived from a strong sense of inferiority and low self-efficacy after repeated academic failures. Given that narrative therapy is a strength-based and goal-oriented approach that assists individuals in identifying previously unrecognized strengths and abilities to facilitate life changes, it is critical to identify the function and validity of such an approach in conceptualization. The outcome and process of change among Primary Four to Primary Six students with dyslexia for reducing psychological distress, social anxiety and problem behaviors as well as improving self-efficacy, were investigated. A mixed methods approach is used which comprises a pretest-posttest non-equivalent comparison group design in the form of a quasi-experiment and semi-structured interviews after the intervention. Both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection are used to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of the intervention.

Data were collected via pre- and post-intervention questionnaires in four primary schools. Pretest-posttest non-equivalent comparison group design indicated that narrative therapy has a positive impact on self-efficacy, social anxiety, and problem behaviors, with significant time by group interaction effects . However, there is limited evidence for the effects of the intervention on psychological distress. The finding is also supported by the five themes generated from the qualitative analysis: 1) Changes in Perception of Dyslexia after Intervention; 2) New Discoveries Reinforcing Positive Changes; 3) Social Emotional Improvements; 4) Sense of Efficacy to Deal with Problems; and 5) Academic Improvement. These findings enriched previous work and contributed to the existing body of research on effective interventions for children with dyslexia and offered insights into the processes of change that occur during narrative group therapy. This research supports the implementation of narrative group therapy in educational and clinical settings for primary students with dyslexia, as it demonstrates the potential for positive outcomes in self-efficacy and psychosocial functioning. Correspondingly, this investigation verifies the feasibility of using narrative group therapy in enhancing self-efficacy and alleviating psychosocial challenges among children with dyslexia in the Chinese context and provides evidence for their impact within the extensive psychotherapy landscape.


Bradbury, J. (2023). An exploration into the role of narrative therapy within educational psychology practice: a reflexive thematic analysis [Doctoral dissertation, University of Nottingham].


Aim: To explore how Narrative Therapy is construed and conceptualised by EPs; what implications this therapeutic approach raises for EP practice; how it can be delivered and to explore for whom this approach can best support.

Design: A sequential exploratory design, analysed through reflexive thematic analysis (RTA). An interpretivist lens to research was adopted, moving away from positivist assumptions within the research methodology. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 EPs. This study captured and deduced patterns across the data set to develop themes (Braun & Clarke, 2022).

Purpose of research: By exploring how EPs construe the term and apply Narrative Therapy, this study hopes to further understand how EPs comprehend and integrate Narrative Therapy in practice. This is especially relevant as Narrative Therapy is thought to be an underpinning foundation to multiple narrative based approaches and therapeutic interventions performed by EPs described in the literature (Hobbs et al., 2012). This is in addition to how previous research on therapeutic interventions has called for a deeper understanding of how therapeutic approaches are used within assessment and consultation by EPs (Simpson & Atkinson, 2021). Based on these findings, a view to explore this specific therapeutic modality led to the formation of the following research questions posed by this thesis: how do EPs construe the term, Narrative Therapy? and, how do EPs conceptualise their application of Narrative Therapy?

Themes: Overall, two thematic maps are provided to illustrate each research question. Findings showed that defining Narrative Therapy remains a difficult task, with suggested paradoxes potentially contributing to why Narrative Therapy appears an elusive therapeutic approach by definition and in application. Key principles, features and techniques outline how Narrative Therapy is construed and conceptualised. The research points to promising future applications of Narrative Therapy to support EPs in trauma informed work and in community project work. These findings are discussed and critically reviewed with the wider literature.


Semeschuk, K. F. (2022). The Michael White Archive: New learnings from White’s therapeutic practice in the realms of abuse and trauma [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Melbourne].


This research focuses on the video archive of Michael White, an Australian social worker whose development of narrative therapy (with David Epston) has profoundly influenced counselling practice internationally. The main objective of this study was to extrapolate aspects of White’s work that were not fully articulated in his published writings. Specifically, the focus was on White’s practice with people with experiences of abuse and associated trauma. This informed the guiding research question: In Michael White’s video archive, what therapeutic practices and ideas did he demonstrate in responding to experiences of abuse and trauma that were not fully articulated in his published writings on narrative therapy? This research employed a theory-building qualitative poststructuralist feminist archival methodology to investigate not only the archive (the past), but also to directly influence contemporary practice (the present). Hence the following sub-questions also informed the study: How can the therapeutic practice of contemporary narrative therapists be influenced by engagements with Michael White’s video archive? What changes in narrative therapists’ practice become possible through their engagement with Michael White’s video archive? A further sub-question related to: How can feminist research be undertaken on the archive of a senior man who is no longer alive? With these research questions as guides, 21 videos were selected, reviewed, transcribed and analysed. Through this process, the researcher produced four ‘Domain’ documents that articulated her learnings/findings from her engagements with the video sample. The structure of the Domains comprised an interweaving of de-identified excerpts of transcripts from Michael White’s video archive, the researcher’s own therapeutic practice, her own discussions with practitioners, and narrative therapy literature. Informed by the aims of engaging in research that was collective, practice-based and reflective of a diversity of contemporary voices, the Domains were shared with participants in practitioner focus groups, which were made up of 45 narrative practitioners from 10 different countries. The findings from the focus groups resulted in four findings chapters in relation to: (1) narrative practice at times when the therapist is more centred; (2) narrative practice and memory; (3) narrative practice as a way of linking emotion with meaning and action; (4) narrative practice as a way of attending to gender politics and a refusal to separate practices of abuse/violence from power. Finally, in accordance with a feminist ethic, the researcher wrote five first-person commentaries to convey her own subjective learnings throughout the project. This thesis provides multiple contributions to knowledge in the field of narrative therapy and community work, including: methodological innovations that enable ethical collective engagement with the archive (and other archives) to influence practice in the present, identification of richer descriptions and multiple new concepts to aid narrative therapists in responding to those subjected to abuse and trauma, documentation of 42 ways in which the practice of counsellors in 10 countries has been changed as a result of participation in this research.


Strauven, S. (2021). People with and without refugee experience co-creating a shared world through narrative practices [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Melbourne].


In this thesis, I look at Australian grassroots community initiatives where people with refugee experience share their stories with people from the established community, most without refugee experience, who listen to them. More specifically, I seek to understand how ‘ordinary’ people are responding to the problems of refugees through narrative practices. For this, I foreground an understanding of these problems as existential, consisting of experiences of worldlessness and superfluity.

Through a critical, post-structural perspective and interview-based inquiry, I explore how narrative practice in storytelling can support people as they resettle and build their lives. I argue that definitional ceremony, in particular, is a powerful practice because it provides people with refugee experience the opportunity to present themselves on their own terms to others in the community. I discuss the myriad ways narrative practice supports the crafting and recounting of preferred selves. When definitional ceremonies turn listeners into active and responsive witnesses, storytellers’ understandings of themselves and their lives are validated. On the grounds that definitional ceremonies are constitutive of identities and worlds I argue that they are political and therefore have value in the pursuit of social change at the local level. Through the lens of definitional ceremony I suggest a process-oriented approach to storytelling that promotes negative capability, highlights the significance of communitas and considers the principle of an aesthetics of existence to guide and sustain grassroots action.

This research introduces possibilities for anyone seeking to create storytelling events that centre the interests of people with refugee experience. More generally, it offers ideas to all those who seek to take relational responsibility in the way they engage with people with refugee experience and their stories. The theoretical and practical contributions of this research emphasise that small-scale and localised action, through meaningful narrative practices, can help address the existential problems that people with refugee experience face. Methodologically, academics who work from post-structural perspectives might be interested in my discussion on the transferability of narrative practices to research interviews, my development of resonance work to (re)present and analyse interview materials and my proposition to read back people’s narratives to reciprocate their time and effort and acknowledge their valuable contributions to knowledge.


Sather, M. (2021). Illuminating skills and knowledges of women who have lost a male partner to suicide: A feminist insider narrative practice research project [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Melbourne].


This qualitative exploratory study, from a feminist insider position, uses narrative practice to privilege the insider knowledge of widows , and to contribute new knowledge about how women respond to the suicide of a male partner.

Narrative therapy, co-developed by Michael White and David Epston (1990), is a non-pathologising practice that situates experiences of hardship in their historical and social contexts. It supports people to free themselves from stigmas generated by contemporary attitudes and to craft preferred identities. Narrative practices arose specifically to counter discourses that marginalise and stigmatise people, and is thus particularly suited to assisting those bereaved by suicide as they are subject to significant stigmatisation.

Feminist-informed qualitative research is underpinned by a reflexivity in relation to one’s own positioning, interests, values and knowledges. It ‘generates problematics from the perspective of women’s experiences’ (Harding, 1987, p. 6). In this project, I drew on my own lived experience of bereavement, which came about through the suicide of my husband and father of my children 16 years ago. Influenced by Wilkinson and Kitzinger (2013), this study does not minimise or maximise insider experience; rather it uses it in transparent ways.

Seventeen women were interviewed from Australia, the United States and Canada. These women brought expertise, commitment and care to the project. The women’s rigorous contributions were thematically analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six phases of reflexive thematic analysis in a manner consistent with narrative practice and feminist understandings.

The exploration of widows’ grief following the death of a spouse by suicide has been given little attention in bereavement research (Flake Ford, 2016; Miers et al., 2012). The literature that exists has not considered suicide bereavement in its specific social, political, ethical and historical contexts, and has forsaken considerations of power. This poststructuralist study questions socially constructed norms of contemporary Western culture in relation to suicide, provides openings for fresh thinking and argues for the recognition and application of insider knowledges.

In this research, responses to suffering and loss are honoured and explored. Such responses have been absent or thinly described in previous studies. The ways in which women actively negotiate and break through the embodied stigma and taboo that often accompany losing a partner to suicide, and the skills and knowledges that women deemed helpful in their transition from ‘partnerhood’ to ‘widowhood’, are richly documented, witnessed and shared (see Leahy et al., 2012; Speedy, 2004).

Based on the analysis of widows’ responses, this thesis offers new understandings to the field of suicide bereavement, and provides recommendations to first responders, practitioners and service providers on more supportive and less stigmatising practice responses to suicide.


Stubbs, K. (2021). A qualitative exploration of facilitators’ experiences of using the tree of life methodology within global community contexts [Doctorial dissertation, University of Hertfordshire].


The Tree of Life methodology (ToL) is a collective narrative practice developed to support communities to respond to collective hardships and trauma from a place of strength. In seeking more culturally appropriate, localised, community-centred approaches towards global mental health provision, ToL has great potential. However, whilst there is a growing knowledge base regarding ToL, there is a sparsity of empirical literature. In particular, little is known about what leads practitioners to use ToL and how they experience the possibilities of its use in community contexts, both important knowledge(s) to support the understanding, deconstruction, improvement, and future uptake of the methodology. Using semi-structured interviews, this inquiry sought the experiences of 19 practitioners, who work(ed) across 16 different countries using ToL in community contexts. The inquiry aimed, specifically, to understand the personal and professional impact of this work, the opportunities and challenges afforded by ToL, whether the practice differs from other practices, and what leads people to use ToL within community contexts. A Reflexive Thematic Analysis of the conversations with practitioners constructed three main themes: ‘Encountering Possibility’, ‘A Contrasting Way of Being and Doing’, and ‘Shared Humanity’. Eleven respective sub-themes were constructed, and together the analysis told a story that practitioners experience the methodology as one of ‘possibility’, different to other approaches in the way practitioners are able to work and be alongside others, sharing their stories in an authentic way and contributing to a joint humanity that leads to both connection and action. Implications for practitioners, the continued use of ToL, clinical psychology and the wider context were outlined. A critical appraisal and several possibilities for future inquiry were presented.


Lainson, K. J. (2020). Enduring anorexia: A multi-storied counter document of living and coping with anorexia over time [Doctoral dissertation, The University of Melbourne].


It has been well-documented that anorexia (nervosa) often endures in people’s lives, yet very limited research attention has been given to the perspectives of adults who have lived with its influence and effects over time. What studies do exist have engaged participation through specialist services, potentially skewing representation, and participants’ experiences, knowledge and capabilities have tended to either go unrecorded or else are dominated by bleak narratives and/or deficit-based portrayals written from clinical perspectives. The Enduring anorexia project addresses these issues by inviting more inclusive participation via social media and by employing the theoretical lens of narrative practice. This hopeful lens centres lived experience perspectives, acknowledges personal agency and seeks entry points into alternative storylines of preferred identity that can lead to new possibilities and understandings.

Since social workers Michael White and David Epston first co-created narrative practice as a respectful and non-blaming approach to counselling and community work that recognises people as separate to problems and intentional in responding to difficulties, the field has been characterised by innovation and diverse application. The Enduring anorexia project extends this application, innovation and practice stance into conducting academic research in the realms of longer-term experience of living and coping with anorexia, demonstrating what opportunities arise as a consequence.

A two-step format of online survey and optional interview gathered stories of experience, response, and ideas about ways forward from 96 participants across 13 countries. Their generous and insightful contributions were thematically analysed congruently with narrative practice’s theoretical bases of poststructuralist, feminist and critical thought. This reflexive process generated 12 themes describing complex and multi-storied experiences of living with anorexia over time. Some themes highlighted the capacity for anorexia’s ongoing influence to create profound and extensive difficulties in people’s lives; accumulating consequences for physical, psychological and social wellbeing were compounded by multiple psychiatric and societal discourses that created obstacles and confounded attempts at seeking support or creating change. Other themes illuminated the meaningful ways participants engaged with their circumstances to purposively manage both their lives and anorexia’s influence in it in order to overcome barriers, to reclaim all or part of their lives, and to live meaningfully and consistently with their values, beliefs and hopes.

In a realm where there is considerable professional uncertainty about how best to proceed or help, the Enduring anorexia project points to a need for:

  • professional attitudes that view people as separate from problems and privilege ‘insider’ over ‘expert’ perspectives;
  • therapeutic approaches that attend to the politics of experience, and double-listen for skills, knowledges and entry points into alternative storylines;
  • support services that are available, accessible and intentionally inclusive;
  • research lenses and directions that focus on response, inclusion, opening space for possibility, and reporting respectfully;
  • a re-conceptualisation of what has been considered a problem of the individual, to invite wider societal responses.

Throughout, narrative practice is shown to be an effective lens/tool for conducting inclusive, non-blaming, hopeful and generative research.

The Enduring anorexia project incorporates reflections on academic research processes, written from the perspective of an insider-practitioner-researcher.