Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 191–200 | Cite as

Theorizing the Narrative Dimension of Psychotherapy and Counseling: A Big and Small Story Approach

  • Anneke SoolsEmail author
  • Carmen Schuhmann
Original Paper


In this article, we develop a theoretically substantiated narrative framework for assessing psychotherapy practices, based on a big and small story approach. This approach stretches the narrative scope of these practices by making explicit and advancing small story counseling. We demonstrate how this framework can be a reflection tool by systematically applying six story dimensions to an example from army counseling. Small story dimensions one (multiple storytellers) and three (ways of ordering experience) draw attention to which persons and stories we do not engage with in counseling practices. Small story dimension two (future and on-going temporal orientation) marks a shift towards language of (future) potential, rather than a language of deficit. Small story dimensions four (low tellability) and five (fluent moral stance), reinstate the art of listening to client words, and remind us to resist the inclination to interpret these too easily in terms of a specific counseling theory or moral framework. Finally, small story dimension six (embeddedness) encourages counseling-on-the-move. Finally, we discuss the implications of widening the narrative scope of psychotherapy and counseling, such as the need to develop small story competence and to assess the therapeutic quality of everyday talk.


Narrative Small stories Social-constructivism Psychotherapy theory Postmodernism Everyday storytelling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Health and Technology (PHT)University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of Humanistic StudiesUtrechtThe Netherlands

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