The Art of Narrative Psychiatry

Graceful and eminently practical.
– David Epston

The Art of Narrative Therapy book cover w


The Art of Narrative Psychiatry is the first comprehensive description of narrative psychiatry in action. Engaging and accessible, it demonstrates how to help patients cultivate their personal sources of strength and meaning as resources for recovery.

An elegantly written and vital new book.
– Bradley Lewis

A fresh alternative for psychiatrists. . . . I urge you to read this groundbreaking book.
– Peggy Sax

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From the back cover:

Narrative psychiatry empowers patients to shape their lives through story. Rather than focusing only on finding the source of the problem, in this collaborative clinical approach psychiatrists also help patients develop their sources of strength and what gives their lives meaning. By encouraging the patient to explore their personal narrative through questioning and story-telling, the clinician helps the patient participate in and discover the ways in which they construct meaning, how they view themselves, what their values are, and who it is exactly that they want to be. These revelations in turn inform clinical decision-making about what it is that ails them, how they’d like to treat it, and what recovery might look like.
     This collaborative approach relishes discovering untold but inspiring stories of a person’s resiliency and skill in resisting mental health challenges while exposing and dismantling discourses that fuel problems. It examines what the doctor’s kit of psychiatry has to offer in light of the values and preferences of the person seeking consultation, authorizing the patient as the arbiter of what is helpful and what is not.
     Cutting through current controversies in the field, narrative psychiatry brings the compassionate approaches of narrative medicine and narrative psychotherapy to the practice of psychiatry.

Illustrated with vivid case reports and in-depth accounts of therapeutic conversations, The Art of Narrative Psychiatry offers psychiatrists and psychotherapists detailed guidance in the theory and practice of this collaborative approach. Drawing inspiration from narrative therapy, post-modern philosophy, humanistic medicine, and social justice movements – and replete with ways to more fully manifest the intentions of the mental health recovery model – this engaging new book shows how to draw on the standard psychiatric toolbox while also maintaining focus on the patient’s vision of the world and illuminating their skills and strengths. Written by a pioneer in the field, the book describes a breadth of nuanced, powerful narrative practices, including externalizing problems, listening for what is absent but implicit, facilitating re-authoring conversations, fostering communities of support, and creating therapeutic documents.

     The Art of Narrative Psychiatry addresses mental health challenges that range from mild to severe, including anxiety, depression, despair, anorexia/bulimia, perfectionism, OCD, trauma, psychosis, and loss. True to form, the author narrates her own experience throughout, sharing her internal thoughts and decision-making processes as she listens to patients. The Art of Narrative Psychiatry is necessary reading for any professional seeking to empower their patients and become a better, more compassionate clinician.

Reviews of The Art of Narrative Psychiatry

The Art of Narrative Therapy book cover wThe Art of Narrative Psychiatry is graceful and eminently practical. Hamkins reveals through clinical tales how she has translated narrative therapy from its sources in Family Therapy, Counseling and Social Work in to mainstream psychiatry. Her gracious practice inheres in these stories and comes alive both in the reading of them and her commentaries. This book returns to the historical concerns of psychiatry in regard to the human soul and as such provides a professional niche for those who wish to engage in such concerns rather than merely prescribe.”
David Epston, co-director, the Family Therapy Centre, Auckland, New Zealand and co-author of Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends and Biting the Hand that Starves You: Inspiring Resistance to Anorexia/Bulimia

“Dr Hamkins is a wise and empathic clinician who deeply understands how the stories people tell about themselves not only describe their lives – but also shape them. The Art of Narrative Psychiatry is an elegantly written and vital new book, which weaves insightful clinical examples with practical guidance, and ultimately shows how understanding the power of stories can lead to an energizing and creative collaboration with patients.”
Bradley Lewis, MD, PhD, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, New York University, NY and author of Narrative Psychiatry: How Stories Can Shape Clinical Practice

“Dr. SuEllen Hamkins offers a fresh alternative to psychiatrists who wish to re-invigorate their commitment to alleviating suffering in their patients. By applying principles and practices of narrative therapy to psychiatry, Dr. Hamkins describes – and then beautifully illustrates- how psychiatrists can carefully attend to the critical problems facing their patients, while simultaneously engaging with their stories of sustenance, intentionality and meaning-making. I urge you to read this groundbreaking book if you believe in psychotropic medication as a compelling option, yet yearn to move beyond a hyper-focus on neurochemistry and diagnostic categorization.”
Peggy Sax, PhD Founder,, Middlebury, VT

“With this highly anticipated book SuEllen Hamkins provides a compelling account of narrative psychiatry. In drawing on the work of White and Epston’s Narrative Therapy and bringing in the role of human biology she builds a bridge between everyday psychiatry and post-modern practices. This hopeful work provides an antidote to the current hyper focus on neurochemistry and diagnostic categories. I highly recommend this book which rigorously details the skills of therapeutic work based on compassionate connection and engagement with life enriching stories of strength, capacity and meaning in the face of severe psychiatric challenges.”
Shona Russell, Co-Director, Narrative Practices Adelaide, South Australia