The Narrative Process Coding System illustrates the use of constructivist methods to assess THE TOPICAL and THEMATIC SHIFTS that characterize client accounts of their experience (Angus, Levitt & Hardke, 1999).
1. SYSTEM TOPIC SEGMENTS – Use the dialogue of a transcribed therapy session break it into topic units that are identified through shifts in protagonists and themes. A client may begin a session by discussing a recent trip to Florida and then shift to an examination of disappointing family vacations in childhood. The identification of such topic segments can allow therapists to consider how themes are maintained or changed through discussion and how the interpersonal psychotherapeutic process can act to facilitate narrative development. 2. CODE these topic segments into one of three narrative processes. a. Internal-focus upon emotional and experiential states.
A description of the storyteller’s awe or uneasiness at first glimpsing the ocean. b. External- dominated by event description.
An account of a vacation itinerary.
c. Reflexive- narrative sequences entail analysis and interpretation of events and internal reactions in order to understand their significance. An exploration of the meaning of relaxation in one’s life.
Through the assessment of narrative processes, therapists can study how changes in the client’s storytelling about life events are evidenced in therapy.
For example, investigators have found that experiential therapists tend to
shift discourse from external event descriptions toward internal and reflexive processes to promote self-exploration and meaning-making, while clients tend to shift into a more external process, to integrate their therapeutic insights into their daily life experiences.
Angus, L., Levitt, H., & Hardtke, K. (1999). Narrative processes and psychotherapeutic change: An integrative approach to psychotherapy research and practice. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55, 1255-1270.
Neimeyer, R. A. & Levitt, H. (2001). Coping and coherence: A narrative perspective on resilience. In R. Snyder (Ed.), Coping with stress (pp. 47-67). New York: Oxford.