Using A Trauma Narrative as a Therapy Tool

What’s your story? Everyone has unique experiences that shape their lives, and many times, these experiences form a story that we communicate to ourselves and others. Over time, you may find that much of your identity comes from the life narrative you’ve crafted.

Can the story of your life impact your mental health? Let’s learn more about the tool of trauma narratives that some therapists use in their sessions. Then, we’ll talk about how to know if therapy is right for you. 

What Is Trauma?

We’ve all been through moments that impact our lives in negative ways. You’ve likely described an adverse event you encountered as “traumatic” before, but what does that mean?

Trauma refers to events that are so emotionally triggering that even subtle reminders can cause you to feel burdened or overwhelmed. This trauma might be an isolated event, such as a car crash, or it might be something more long-lasting, like a manipulative parent-child relationship. 

If you’ve been through unspeakable pain, it might sound unappealing to address trauma with your therapist. Still, using trauma narrative as a tool in therapy sessions can benefit your healing.

Understanding Trauma Narrative

Did you know therapists use a variety of tools to help you reach your mental health goals? One such tool is the trauma narrative. Though it might seem counterintuitive, this tool can help you in therapy sessions.

Essentially, your therapist may use a form of exposure therapy before getting into the narrative portion. Instead of avoiding your pain, exposure through narrative therapy involves directly addressing the trauma you’ve encountered. Let’s learn more about the benefits of this tool and how to use it correctly. 

Benefits of Trauma Narratives

While addressing your pain may seem like the last thing you want to do, telling your story can help reduce its emotional impact over time. Crafting a narrative about your trauma with your therapist can help you reframe the things you’ve endured and see your journey in a new light. 

Another benefit to using this tool is that it allows you to speak with a nonjudgmental therapist about your story. You’re free to explore the feelings that come up in a safe environment.

Lastly, you might find this tool beneficial for the self-discovery that comes from it. As you re-tell your trauma, you may notice which parts of your story are particularly triggering for you. This knowledge can help you to know which topics are potentially extra-sensitive for you and why. 

How to Use a Trauma Narrative

Maybe you’ve been to therapy before, but you’re unsure of how using trauma narratives in treatment will actually be. 

Let’s look at how a therapist might use this in your sessions for your benefit.


Before you begin using a tool in therapy, your mental health care provider should talk with you about what you’re going to try. A qualified therapist will educate you about trauma and its effects on your mind in this beginning stage. They’ll inform you about how addressing therapy might affect you and walk you through the process of this exposure approach. 

How To Craft the Narrative

After you speak with your therapist about the process, expectations, and benefits of using trauma narrative as a therapy tool, you and your mental health care provider will begin the process of crafting a cohesive trauma narrative together. This process will likely take several sessions, and the speed at which you construct your story should follow your comfort level.

Here’s a more structured look at how you and your mental health clinician might begin to construct your narrative.

1. Start with Facts

As you approach sharing your story with your therapist, focus on the literal facts of what happened to you. Try to clarify who was involved in your account, the timeline of events, the setting where relevant experiences took place, and the most significant trauma events. 

Your provider may ask you to write these things down to develop a physical account of the details. While you do this, there’s room for you to go at your own pace as you navigate remembering these challenging events.

2.  Incorporate Thoughts and Emotions

After getting the facts sorted, you can move on to the next step: revising your account and adding thoughts and emotions. 

Your therapist may ask you to do this by re-reading the details you’ve written and discussed the subjective elements that add to the facts of your experience. Explore what images and sensations come to mind as you examine the timelines and specific descriptive factors you’ve recorded.

3.  Don’t Run from Discomfort

As you move beyond the first and second steps of composing your trauma narrative, you may begin to feel increasingly uncomfortable. You may need to pause in certain moments as you sense the reality of your hurt in the presence of your therapist. 

Though you may have the instinct to run from hard feelings, the most healing thing you can do is embrace the emotions that arise in these moments. Slowly going over each trauma element to fully capture its essence allows for an honest narrative experience.

4.  Challenge Distortions

As we mentioned, the process of crafting your narrative with your therapist may take several weeks. Not all of these steps will occur in one day, so don’t be anxious about moving too quickly.  

In the final step of putting together your trauma narrative, your therapist may ask you to review your account with them. By this point, you may be able to re-read the information without feelings of emotional distress. 

As you go over your account, your therapist might challenge particular elements of your narrative and ask you to think critically about some people of your recollections. This step allows you to address any distorted thoughts you may have held onto since your trauma occurred. 

5. Remember Lessons Learned

After going over your story one final time in step four, there’s one more step for you to complete. While using trauma narratives as a tool, your mental health provider may ask you to write one more paragraph at the end of your story contrasting your emotions about the event today versus at the time of the trauma. 

This is your time to recognize the ways you’ve grown and the lessons you’ve learned. You’ve come a long way, and getting these thoughts down can help you realize your hard work and bravery in seeking help after a challenging and hurtful chapter in your story. 

How to Know Therapy Is For You

While reading this, you might be wondering if therapy could benefit you. Going to talk therapy sessions and visiting a psychiatric care provider are excellent steps in pursuing mental wholeness. 

Here are a few ways to know therapy is for you.

Anxiety and Depression Affect Your Life

Do you often wrestle with symptoms of depression and anxiety? You might have noticed these symptoms appeared after your trauma occurred, though they can result from several life circumstances.

If you need help managing your anxiety attacks and depressive episodes, speaking to a trained psychiatric provider and talk therapist are excellent ways to start feeling better. 

You Have a Hard Time Seeing Your Story Clearly

When we go through challenging moments or severe trauma, recalling these events isn’t always easy. You may only remember bits and pieces. 

If you struggle with remembering specific details of your story, speaking to a compassionate mental health care provider can help you address your experiences piece by piece until you have a clearer understanding. 

Finding Mental Health Care

How can you find quality mental health care when you’ve never been to a therapist? First off, we want to mention that going to therapy is a massive decision to make. For that, we commend you.

We wanted people like you to have a better experience with mental health services than previously available. Because of that, we created Mood Health. It’s a new, stress-free way to access affordable quality mental health care because that’s what you deserve.

Walk Through Your Story With Mood Health

Signing up with Mood Health is quick and effortless. On our website, you can tell us a bit about yourself. 

Then, you can make a same-week appointment with a therapist or psychiatric care provider. All you need on the day of the appointment is a stable wifi connection, and you’re ready to enter into an enriching therapeutic experience. 

You Can Write a New Story

Your past is an important part of your life to acknowledge. On that note, we’re proud of you for being here today. Educating yourself about the trauma that has impacted you is a significant step to take to make you a little more prepared for that first therapy session

Using trauma narrative as a tool in your sessions is a helpful way to see where you’ve been. And from there, you can begin dreaming up the new chapter about where you’re going. 



Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET) | APA

Trauma Narratives: It’s What You Say, Not How You Say It | NCBI 

Writing Trauma Narratives Increases Temporal Organization & Habituation | DIv12